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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

At the Roots of Kronos and Villa Lante

In the beginning of the 1950s, right after completing his national service, Päiviö Tommila enrolled at the University of Helsinki to study history. He joined Kronos, the student association of history students founded in 1945, and served as its master of ceremonies. To balance his time at the association, he also joined the Satakuntalainen Osakunta student nation, which he chose because his father’s family are from the Satakunta region of Finland.

Student associations were a relatively new concept in the 1950s, and they grew to challenge the student nations which had dominated student politics. Professor Emeritus Tommila considers student politics to be an important aspect of university life.

“The Student Union has been an educational institution in its own right. When you look at politicians, many of them of them have been involved in politics since they were students. It is completely natural and applies to all forms of collaboration. You have to have personal drive and enjoy the trust of your peers. When life is short, you have to get started early.”

Becoming an exchange student was neither simple nor common in the 1950s, and there were no international student exchange programmes like Erasmus. Nevertheless, some students still found their way abroad, often to do research. The Finnish Institute in Rome at the Villa Lante was established in the early 1950s. Tommila participated in the first academic course organised by the Institute, which was led by Edwin Linkomies, the legendary rector and chancellor of the University of Helsinki.

The Finnish Institute in Rome at the Villa Lante.

The journey to Italy was, in a manner of speaking, a grand tour of Europe, as the possibilities for travel were very different from what they are today. The continent was mainly traversed by rail, and altogether the Roman excursion, which began on a May Day morning, lasted six weeks. Tommila feels that the first course organised by the Villa Lante was a unique opportunity because nothing similar had been organised prior to the establishment of the Institute. The journey left an indelible mark on the young student.

“The course was unforgettable, and in the following years I have visited Italy and Rome many times.”

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