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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

The Anniversary Year of 1990

The ongoing 375 Humanists project is part of the 375th anniversary of the University of Helsinki. The festivities of 1990 in turn coincided with Päiviö Tommila’s tenure as rector. The 350th anniversary of the University was celebrated with great ceremony, the rector naturally partaking in the festive spirit. On October 9, Tommila opened the National Celebration with a speech whose words in defence of university education are still relevant amidst the festivities of 2015:

“A university performs its duties for future generations. That is why supporting and respecting the work of universities everywhere is the same as building the future of all countries. When considering the future of a nation, there is no better investment than maintaining high standards of education and research. This in turn has to be a matter of honour to every country, because—to quote Federico Mayor, the Director-General of UNESCO and a former university rector—“the success of a university is often reflected in the success of its country.”

At Finlandia Hall on March 26, 1990, the 350th anniversary of the University. Rector Päiviö Tommila shaking hands with the oldest guest at the party, archiater Arvo Ylppö. Photo from the Helsinki University Museum.

In 1990, the University of Helsinki also hosted the General Conference of the International Association of Universities, which brought distinguished guests to Finland from over 400 universities around the world. Tommila says that his rector colleagues have afterwards reminisced about the anniversary procession, which was caught in heavy rain. Preparations for unpredictable weather had, however, been made, and to the surprise of the guests, the parade quickly turned into a sea of umbrellas when the University provided shelter for the entire procession.

The carnival which opens the academic year, and which has now become a tradition, was also organised for the first time in 1990, when Tommila was the rector. At the event, organised on September 11, Rector Tommila expressed the hope that the occasion would initiate a new academic carnival tradition. After 25 years, it seems safe to say that his wish came true and that the tradition has maintained its vitality.

"The senate square is ours!" The emblem, on a coaster, of the 350th anniversary carnival held on September 11, 1990. Photo from the Helsinki University Museum.


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