Wendt Visiting Scholar Pavel Litvinov

On January 9, Hackley hosted Pavel Litvinov, this year’s Henry Wendt Visiting Scholar, who addressed Upper School students in the morning, visited classes, and then continued conversation with students over lunch.

To long tenured members of the Hackley community, including parents and alumni stretching across three decades of Hackley history, Pavel Litvinov needs no introduction. A longtime Hackley teacher of physics and mathematics, he is appreciated by many as a brilliant and inspiring scientist who taught at Hackley for 30 years (1976 – 2006). Today’s students can find his portrait on the wall outside the Head of School’s office. Still, some do not know that Mr. Litvinov was, and remains, an important figure in the fight for civil and human rights.

Before coming to Hackley in 1974, Pavel Litvinov was already well known as a leading Soviet dissident. The grandson of Maxim Litvinov, Stalin’s foreign minister in the 1930s, he might have led a charmed life in the Soviet Union. During his years at university, however, he began to question Soviet ideology and policy, and to protest what he saw as unfair trials of Soviet citizens. His dissent took its most public form when he joined seven others in Red Square to protest the Soviet Union’s August, 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Quickly arrested, he spent several years in internal exile in Siberia. He was released in 1972, but refused to change his views and was told he must leave the country to avoid further imprisonment. Soon thereafter, he left the Soviet Union and found himself on the Hilltop.

As History Department Chair Bill Davies noted in his introduction, “You will hear in a minute something about Mr. Litvinov’s biography. He has, as will soon become evident, a great story to tell, and a gripping narrative is certainly the best place to begin to talk about history. But it’s also the stuff of great journalism, so -- if journalism is ‘the first draft of history’ – I think it’s worth wondering what distinguishes a ‘good story’ from important history. There are many answers, but one, it seems to me, is that great moments of history imply meaning that escapes the boundaries of time and place. That’s certainly true of the story we will consider this morning.”

The Wendt Visiting Scholar program was made possible through the generosity of Henry Wendt, Class of 1951. Mr. Wendt was an outstanding member of his class, receiving the Parker Cup, Hackley’s highest graduation honor. He attended Princeton University and had long and successful service as head of the pharmaceutical corporation SmithKline Beckman. Throughout his career Mr. Wendt has been a leading proponent of the need for the business community to create transnational alliances which can work across country borders. In his book “Global Embrace,” he suggests that the successful transnational corporation must respect local cultures in order to meet its goals to its stockholders, to its customers, to its employees and to the societies in which it operates. He views open international competition as the best climate in which the transnational corporation can advance these objectives.

The Wendt Visiting Scholar Program was endowed by Mr. Wendt to bring notable global figures – in business, in diplomacy, in the military, in academic study – to Hackley to share their experience and perspective with Hackley’s students. Past speakers have included Alex Counts, Hackley alumnus Koichi Itoh, Col. Michael Meese, Prof. Ishaq Nadiri, and Ambassador Dennis Ross, on topics ranging from the Middle East to Japan to Afghanistan to microfinance.

(Read the Hackley Review interview with Pavel Litvinov.)