In conversation with Professor Eva Haller

13 March 2014

Honorary Professor Eva Haller with Dr Sally Magnusson

Honorary Professor Eva Haller with Dr Sally Magnusson

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) welcomed its new Magnusson Fellow and Honorary Professor Eva Haller to the campus by hosting in-conversation event with Dr Sally Magnusson, writer, broadcaster and honorary graduate of the university.

Professor Haller, an internationally renowned humanitarian activist and philanthropist, inspired the audience of students, staff and guests with stories about her childhood experiences during WW2 when she worked for underground resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

The GCU event also provided a platform for Professor Haller to thank Scottish missionary teacher Jane Haining, who saved Jewish children by hiding them in a Budapest school. Jane, who was born in Dumfries, was later captured and executed at Auschwitz.

“I have never had the opportunity to say thank you in Scotland until now,” said Professor Haller.

“I owe my life to Jane Haining,” said Professor Haller. “The school in Budapest became a place of protection. I arrived there after Jane had been taken to Auschwitz because she would not leave the children in her care. I was taken in and hidden for two or three months, and that saved my life.”

Professor Haller also told of her devastation over the death of her brother John, who sacrificed himself to enemy soldiers so that his three friends could escape to cross the Yugoslavian border. His heroism inspired her commitment to devote herself to helping those in trouble wherever they may be, which has led to more than 50 years of international philanthropy and social activism on her part.

Now 83-years-old and living in the US, Professor Haller and her husband Yoel continue to spend their time and energy to working with young people in need of help, through their involvement with organisations including Free The Children and initiatives such as Adopt A Village.

Just last week, the couple took part in the UK’s first We Day event in London, a Free The Children initiative to encourage young people to get involved in social activism on a global scale.

“I feel so lucky to be here, every day is a miracle,” said Professor Haller.

“I also feel so lucky to be part of Glasgow Caledonian University. I am learning so much from you all, about the work of the Caledonian Club, the Grameen Caledonian College of Nursing in Bangladesh and Grameen in the UK. It gives me great joy to be a part of GCU.”

GCU established the Magnusson Fellowship in honour of the University’s late Chancellor, Magnus Magnusson. Its members include leading international figures such as Professor Muhammad Yunus, now Chancellor of GCU, who delivered the inaugural Magnusson Fellowship lecture in 2008; Dr Will Hutton, the Executive Vice Chair of The Work Foundation and former editor-in-chief of The Observer (2010 lecture);  Dr Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and international human rights and climate change activist (2011 lecture) and Professor Renata Selecl, the renowned Slovenian philosopher, sociologist and legal theorist (2012 lecture).

As the conversation event drew to a close, Professor Haller offered a final piece of advice to the audience: “Endorphins are created in your body when you do something good. They make you happy, healthier and feel good. So here is my message to you all – go and grow your own endorphins.”