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Columbia University students interested in Polish history, culture, society, economy and political life will have another avenue for their studies because the $1.2 billion Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union has endowed a chair of Polish studies at the school.The credit union finished the five-year effort to fund the chair with a Feb. 16 donation of $181,000. All told, PSFCU donated $500,000 of the $3 million that was required to fund the chair.“This is a truly historic and prideful day for Polonians and all Polish-Americans,” said Bogdan Chmielewski, CEO of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Polish & Slavic FCU. “Thanks to the department’s existence, Poland’s visibility within the hallowed halls of U.S. academia will increase greatly. Furthermore, there will be heightened awareness of Poland’s vast contributions to world culture.”The chair will promote cultural and scientific achievements of Poland and the Polish people at one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S., PSFCU said. It will also work with the Council of Polish Supplementary Schools to help administer the Polish language regents exams, taken annually by students attending those ethnic schools.PSFCU sees this as a vital investment in the education of a younger generation of Poles who will now be able to have a greater respect and knowledge of their heritage and culture.PSFCU, which claims to be the country’s largest ethnic credit union, was the first organization to get on board with the effort-led by Professor John Micgiel, a member of the credit union-to further the study of Polish history and culture five years ago when it made an initial donation of $20,000.That first year, Micgiel managed to raise a total of $23,500, including the PSFCU donation. The credit union followed through with additional donations, but more importantly, championed the cause in the media, which eventually convinced others, including major companies in Poland, to donate significant amounts of money.“Throughout the past five years, we have always been able to count on the PSFCU for support. They have kept us going, kept us moving forward and kept us filled with hope,” said Micgiel, who is the director of the East Central European Center at Columbia.“They were there at the beginning and they are here today at the end. As the old proverb says: ‘Finis coronat opus,’ meaning ‘The end concludes the deed.’ In this case, PSFCU not only concludes the deed, but it also greatly helped to begin the work.”By contributing one-sixth of the total amount needed to create the department, PSFCU has shown once again its strong commitment to its members and neighbors. And in an era where financial institutions are teetering on insolvency, PSFCU has proven to be a beacon of success, as it continues to invest within the communities it serves.“This is a prime example of what we like to call the credit union difference,” said Chmielewski. “We are deeply entwined in the lives of Polish-Americans, and we feel a strong responsibility to improving and celebrating their lives and heritage. We truly feel we make a difference in the lives of our members, and that’s something that no bank can do.”–[email protected]

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