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Päiviö Tommila

Juhani Päiviö Tommila
Born August 4, 1931, Jyväskylä

Bachelor of Arts (Finnish History) 1954, Master of Arts (valedictorian) 1957, Licentiate 1960, PhD (valedictorian) 1964, University of Helsinki

Rector of the University of Helsinki 1988–92
Dean of the Department of History and Language Sciences 1987–88, University of Helsinki
Dean of the Faculty of Arts 1967–71, 1973–75, University of Turku
Professor of Finnish history1965–76, University of Turku
Docent in Finnish history 1962–67, University of Helsinki
Research assistant in History 1959–65, University of Helsinki
Employee of the Nurmijärvi District History Committee 1955–57

Federation of Finnish Learned Societies 1989–2000
Executive Board of the Finnish Institute in Estonia 1993–2002
Project leader of Suomen lehdistön historia (‘the history of the Finnish press’) 1975–92
Board of Trustees of the Finnish Cultural Foundation 1978–85, Chairman 1985–87, Supervisory Board 1987–96, General Secretary 1994–96
Editor-in-chief 1983–90, Historiallisen Aikakauskirja

Awards and honours:
Honorary title of Academician 2004
First Class Commander of the Order of the White Rose of Finland
Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland
Honorary PhD 1998, University of Jyväskylä
Member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences

Photo: Faculty of Arts
Written by Olli Siitonen
Translated by Matthew Billington

Alumni Activity and a University in Change

Päiviö Tommila remembers how the institution of the university expanded and spread at the turn of the 1970s; the number of students increased, new universities were founded, and new professorships were rapidly established. Times have now changed, but the professor emeritus believes that the University will remain strong.

Fierce debates on possible reforms to the structure of research and administration were also part of Tommila’s tenure as rector in the early 1990s. The themes of today are therefore familiar to him, and there are always those who believe that the University has too much bureaucracy or too many faculty members.

“Distribution of resources has always been the subject of debate, and this is by no means limited to universities. The same goes for national politics, when money is distributed between different ministries and industries.”

Tommila, who has served as the chairman of the Finnish Cultural Foundation, considers the most important criterion of teaching to be its results, in other words the visibility of research and student satisfaction in the level of teaching. Visibility of research, however, is not enough by itself, and it is also necessary to find new avenues of funding outside the university.

The University already received donations when Finland was part of the Swedish Empire, but overtime new methods have been developed to meet the needs of a changing university. During his time as rector, Tommila was involved in establishing the Alumni Association of the University of Helsinki, which was intended to keep graduates connected to the University.

“When you follow how alumni activity has developed, you can see how it has flourished over the past five or ten years. It has also become all the more evident that investing in it can bring some real benefits.”

Emeritus professors Päiviö Tomila and Eino Jutikkala at an academician party for Tommila in 2004. Photo from the Faculty of Arts.


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