The Dietrich Botstiber Foundation does outstanding work in fostering relations between the United States and Austria and in fighting poverty – thanks to a founder with an unusual life story.
The Star Spangled Banner and Red-White-Red. Two countries which could not be more different in many respects, and seem so similar in many others. "Not on the Mayflower" (Xlibris) is the title of the Dietrich W. Botstiber biography published six years ago. His collaborator of many years, Terry Kline, wrote and designed the book, and its title is as programmatic as the flags that grace its cover. The Mayflower was the ship that, in 1620, brought hundreds of English Pilgrims to the New World, to which they fled from religious persecution in their old home. Botstiber arrived in America about three centuries later, because his life was in danger in the country where he was born and grew up. And this is where the parallels to the first European settlers end.
Dietrich Botstiber came to the United States in 1938. His home country had become part of the German Reich; Hitler's henchmen – with the diligent assistance of countless allies in the "Ostmark" – had started persecuting Austria's Jews immediately after the "Anschluss." Born in Vienna, Botstiber, who had just completed his master of science in engineering at the Technische Hochschule and whose family had until then been among the most well-respected in the country's capital – his father, Hugo, was the secretary general at the Wiener Konzerthausgesellschaft – had to drop out of the doctoral program and leave the country practically overnight. An experience that would inform the rest of his life; one that did not make him bitter, but rather drove him to devote his life and work to sparing other people the same fate.
The entrepreneur and inventor laid the foundation for this in his "second life" in the United States. Newly arrived, Botstiber eked out a living, at first in cigar manufacturing, in several engineering jobs, and in a helicopter company – until he put his American Dream into practice by founding the Philadelphia-based Technical Development Company (TEDECO), which specialized in systems optimization and energy transfer in high speed networks, and was involved in consulting aviation companies. Rather than investing the fortune he made by selling TEDECO in the 1980s in castles, yachts, and jewelry, he used the money to establish a foundation, which in the USA is still unique in both its goals and its work – not least because it still operates in the spirit of Dietrich Botstiber. Today, the Botstiber Foundation, founded in 1995, rests on three pillars: the Scholars Program, the Institute for Austrian-American Studies, and the Fund for Food Security. The Botstiber Scholars Program provides four-year undergraduate scholarships for study at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Established in 1865, the private university (4,700 students) ranks among the world's best in engineering, natural sciences, and technological research.
His Legacy Continues
The Foundation's second pillar is the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies (BIAAS), whose aim is to promote the relationship and mutual understanding between Austria and the United States. Its staff cooperates primarily with the Austrian Cultural Fora in New York and Washington D.C., the Center Austria at the University of New Orleans, and the Center for Austrian Studies at the University of Minnesota. (Once every year, the BIAAS hosts a series of talks in Washington D.C., with such luminary guest speakers as Wolfgang Petritsch, Othmar Karas, Alfred Gusenbauer, and Der Standard managing editor Eric Frey.) Concretely, the BIAAS and the Austrian-American Educational Commission jointly sponsor two Fulbright visiting professorships (currently, Germanist Primus Kucher from Klagenfurt is hosted by the University of Vermont, and the Californian musicologist Katherine Baber is teaching at the University of Vienna) and offer scholarships for academic projects in history, literature, economics, law, music, and translation studies. The third pillar, the Botstiber Fund for Food Security, works to reduce poverty and malnutrition. Its current focus is North Burma, where the Fund, in conjunction with the well-known NGO CARE, implements the Lashio Integrated Food Security Project, which aims to provide sustainable clean water and food supply systems in one of the poorest regions in the world. Dietrich Botstiber, who made all these programs possible, would have celebrated his 100th birthday last year. His legacy continues in every single student who, thanks to Botstiber's work, takes home the knowledge she gained in America, in every scientist who, thanks to Botstiber, is able to teach and do research in the United States, and in every child who will have enough food and water in the future. (Klaus Stimeder)
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