On December 7, 2018, the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchange once again celebrated its 25th anniversary – this time in the US at the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington, DC, thanks to our generous host, HE Tihomir Stoychev, the Bulgarian ambassador to the United States. More than 60 guests joined us for the festive occasion, including more than 30 US alumni of various Fulbright programs and from different moments in the program’s history, as well as friends and partners from the US Department of State, IIE, World Learning, the Fulbright Association, and the America for Bulgaria Foundation, among others. HE Stoychev opened the celebration with a warm address congratulating Fulbright for a quarter-century of successful public diplomacy, then gave the floor to the Honorable Susan Crystal, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges, who reaffirmed the importance of Fulbright as the US government’s flagship exchange program. Fulbright ED Angela Rodel briefly addressed the group to outline Fulbright’s achievements over the past 25 years and to offer a vision for the next quarter-century, while also thanking all the partners who have supported the program and made its successes possible. Guests were the treated to the short three-minute video on Fulbright Bulgaria’s history created for the April celebration in Sofia, set to the beautiful recording of a Rhodope folk song by alumna Kate Conklin. Three Fulbrighters then gave brief testimonials about the impact of the program on their lives: Emily Paxson, ETA in Lovech from 2016-2018 and now a graduate student at George Washington University; two-time Fulbright scholar in law Brian Murphy (1992-94, 2018); and current Bulgarian scholar Lieutenant Colonel Georgi Marinov.
The true highlight of the evening was a solo performance by the internationally renowned pianist Pavlina Dokovska, a Fulbright Bulgaria alumna who generously volunteered her time and talent to the event, traveling from New York City where she teaches at the New School’s Mannes School of Music. Her delightful and varied program of works by Lyubomir Pipkov, Robert Schumann, Leonard Bernstein and Claude Debussy showcased not only her musical gifts but also her theatrical talents, as she introduced every work with fascinating anecdotes offering insights into the works and composers.
The final speaker of the evening was Mr. Lynn Daft, member of the Board of Directors of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, which has generously supported the English Teaching Assistant program in Bulgaria since 2010. He, too, underscored the importance impact that Fulbright |ABF English Teaching Assistants have, as they live and work in communities all over Bulgaria with very little opportunities for everyday contact with Americans. He and fellow trustees Marshall Miller and Brian Dailey, as well as ABF President Nancy Schiller, who were also present at the celebration, wished the Fulbright Commission well as we continue to work together to strengthen education in Bulgaria.
Afterwards guests enjoyed a delicious meal and fine wine, as well as a chance to catch up with friends and fellow Fulbrighters. The enthusiasm and energy we felt at this event has convinced us that we need to organize alumni events more often in the US – stay tuned! Thank you once again to the Bulgarian Embassy in the US, the State Department, the American for Bulgaria Foundation, our alumni and all of our other partners and friends who helped make this second birthday fete a success!