Lubos Pastor (born L’uboš Pástor), 1974
Lubos Pastor was born in Košice, a city in eastern Slovakia, in 1974. His parents, Marie and František, were both math teachers – his mother taught at the high school while his father also taught computer science at the local university. As a student, Lubos’s hobbies included computers, chess, math, and athletics. He competed in chess tournaments and participated in math competitions and camps. He also often joined his parents and younger sister for hikes and gardening. Lubos attended a math-oriented gymnázium for high school. He was in his second year there when the Velvet Revolution occurred. Lubos recalls crowds and protests in Košice and says that the fall of communism changed his life as he saw that ‘anything was possible.’
After high school, Lubos studied economics at Comenius University in Bratislava. In the newly-formed College of Management, Lubos says that much of the curriculum was not only American-based, but also taught in English. In 1994, Lubos traveled to Kansas for a study-abroad program at Wichita State University. He decided to finish his undergraduate education there and, one year later, began a doctoral program in economics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Upon receiving his doctorate, Lubos accepted a position at the University of Chicago, where today he is a professor of finance at the Booth School of Business.
In 1996, Lubos’s future wife, Sonia, arrived in the United States. The pair had met at university in Bratislava. They married and, today, have three children. Lubos says that the family speaks Slovak at home, and they return to Slovakia each summer to visit family. Today, Lubos lives in Chicago with his family.
Because his father taught computer science at the local university, Lubos had access to a computer
“We had a little Sinclair computer at home when I was growing up. Back then I was probably 12 or so when he bought a little Sinclair for me. It was just a few kilobytes of memory, but I was able to do a little coding in Basic. I even programmed my own little game – this little ghost moving around and collecting some goodies. Similar to one of the games at the time. But computing was certainly in its diapers. It’s come a long ways since then.”
Lubos was involved in several extracurricular activities, including a special math program
“They would call them seminars. So what would happen is that high school kids would get a set of math problems, say eight problems, once a month, and they were not easy problems – some of the were, but not too easy – and you were supposed to solve them, write them up, [and] send them in. Once a month you would do that and then, every three months or so, the top thirty kids would be selected and invited to a weeklong camp, which was a combination of math lectures and a lot of fun in the afternoon and evening. So I did at least a dozen of those, both in Košice and in Bratislava and even outside Slovakia, maybe a couple in the Czech Republic. I got a lot of math, and especially a lot of friends, that way.
“Some other extracurricular activities… Well, I used to play a lot of chess as a kid. Starting maybe in fourth grade I played in a lot of tournaments. My father taught me how to play chess and then I had a coach, who was actually Czech but lived in Košice – Václav Bednář. He gave me a lot. He was a great guy – still is, I think – I hope. Yeah, that was a lot of fun. There are some really good chess players back there in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Many of the kids I used to play with and battle with are now Grand Masters. Mostly in the Czech in Republic; some in Slovakia. So I did math and chess. I did some athletics as well. Only locally, so I would run distances like the 800 meters and 1500 meters. Those were my favorites.”
The Velvet Revolution occurred when Lubos was in high school
“I was just a bit too young to appreciate what was going on, I think. I didn’t feel at age 14 or 15 that I was being oppressed. I did things that I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed doing things like sports and math and chess and I liked school; you could do all of those things without any restrictions so, at the time, I didn’t really understand the big picture. When I was 14 and 15 I did not really understand how oppressive that system was to adults. I think maybe two or three years later it would have started oppressing me. So I got really lucky.”
Lubos explains how being witness to the fall of communism changed his life
“The big thing that I think was stamped on me for the rest of my life was that I saw as a kid… At ages 15, 16, 17, you build your views about how the society works, whether you would like your society to look like this or that, and at that time what my generation saw was that the whole society can be changed. So when you see that, when you see that the whole political system in which you lived can be replaced, anything becomes possible. Anything becomes possible. And many of my peers from my cohort, plus or minus one year, have become very successful later on. And I wonder whether this mentality was acquired back then. That they saw that anything was possible and that sort of made their lives more open, and that perhaps pushed them to work harder and in pursuit of their dreams. That was the main thing. That’s still with me.”
Lubos and his Slovak wife, Sonia, encourage their young children to speak Slovak
“So we speak mostly Slovak at home. They grew up here, they go to school here, which means that English is their first language and I don’t think we can change that. But we do speak mostly Slovak at home. They understand Slovak; they can speak it. You can tell they are not native, but they can speak it. In addition to speaking it at home, we take them to Slovakia every summer where they get to meet their grandparents and their numerous cousins. So they always pick up a lot of Slovak there. At the end of each summer their Slovak is a lot better than at the beginning of each summer.”
Category: Chicago, Oral History