Ukrainian Studies

Alex and Helen Woskob with their son George present President Bryce Jordan with one of their first donations to Penn State in 1990

Alex and Helen Woskob, businesspeople and owners of the AW&Sons apartment rental company in State College, Pennsylvania, donated one million dollars to the College of Liberal Arts in support of Ukrainian studies at The Pennsylvania State University in November 2006.

The donation continued the Woskob family’s generous support for the Ukrainian as well as other cultural programs at the University. The Woskobs have previously donated significant funds to establish the Penn State Center for Ukrainian Agriculture and have funded other local cultural projects such as the Woskob Family Art Gallery at the Penn State Downtown Theatre. The Woskobs’ son George with his wife Nina, owners of the GN Associates apartment rental and management firm in State College, have also been immensely active in their financial support of cultural activities at Penn State. George Woskob additionally serves on the advisory board of the Penn State Center for Ukrainian Agriculture. Both George and his sister Larysa are graduates of Penn State.

The Woskobs’ gift significantly expanded the Endowment for Ukrainian Studies at Penn State, for which they had previously donated $100,000 when Dr. Michael M. Naydan arrived at Penn State in 1988. The interest generated by the endowment primarily supports cultural and scholarly activities at Penn State, including the teaching of Ukrainian language and culture; visiting faculty, researchers and scholars; publications and symposia on Ukrainian topics; speakers and performers; student and faculty exchanges; study abroad programs in Ukraine; and other activities that acquaint the English-speaking world with the best that Ukrainian culture has to offer.

Spearheading the Ukrainian Studies Program at Penn State is Woskob Family Professor of Ukrainian Michael M. Naydan, who has been teaching at the University since 1988. Dr. Naydan is the author-translator of over 40 books and nearly 100 other publications in scholarly and literary journals. The latest addition to the department is Assistant Professor Yuliya V. Ladygina, who also is an expert in Ukrainian studies with a forthcoming book on eminent Ukrainian writer Olha Kobylianska with the University of Toronto Press.

In 1989, Dr. Naydan established Penn State’s first Ukrainian Culture Course in English in North America, which has been taught uninterruptedly twice each academic year either by Professor Naydan or by visiting scholars such as Oksana Zabuzhko, Mykola Riabchuk, Maria Zubrytska, and Olha Luchuk, and graduate students from Ukraine including Oleksandra Wallo, Roman Ivashkiv, Olha Tytarenko, and Oksana Lushchevska, all of whom following their MA at Penn State have received Ph.D.s in the U.S. and Canada. Two additional former MA students Oksana Tatsyak and Oksana Husieva are currently working on their Ph.D. degrees. The current course is co-taught by Dr. Naydan and our M.A. student Alina Zhurbenko from Sumy, Ukraine. The culture course began with an enrollment of 15 students when it was first taught in 1989 and climbed to as many as 60 students when still taught in class. Most recently, it has been offered to ever-increasing numbers of students via the Internet. The Program also regularly offers a three-semester sequence of Ukrainian language—taught by graduate students from Ukraine.

In addition to the Woskob Family Endowment, Ms. Myroslava Ivanciw of Chicago donated $25,000 to establish an endowment for faculty and graduate student enhancement. Most recently, interest from the Ivanciw Endowment was used to support revisions of the Ukrainian Culture Course by Alina Zhurbenko under the supervision of Dr. Naydan.

Funds have also been donated by several Ukrainian Savings and Loan Associations as well as various individuals to support a conference “Hryhory Skovoroda: Philosopher and Poet” in 1994 and the eventual publication of translations of Skovoroda’s poetry and letters by Glagoslav Publishers.

Dr. Naydan and Dr. Ladygina foresee the focus of the endowment to be cultural and contemporary issues that will not duplicate the already good efforts in history and politics in place at other universities. They greatly appreciate the Woskob family’s extremely generous donation as a solid basis for Ukrainian studies activities at Penn State and welcome other donors to establish additional graduate student teaching assistantships for students from Ukraine, publication and conference funds, and scholarships for students to assist Penn State students in attending study abroad programs in Ukraine.

For further information on the Ukrainian studies program at Penn State contact Dr. Michael M. Naydan () or Dr. Yuliya V. Ladygina ().