By Cecilia Rokusek, President and CEO
Our new President/CEO shares her excitement and thoughts about her role, the future of the NCSML, and her early impressions of the potential of what is to come.
Dear friends and supporters of the NCSML,
I am in my first week of work, and what an honor it is for me to be able to serve as your President and CEO! I am so happy with all that has been done at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library (NCSML), what is planned, and what new adventures lay ahead for our future. The NCSML is radiating with excitement and anticipation of the wonderful exhibits, events, and innovative educational programs that have been planned for Fall 2018. Our museum and library is a true regional, national, and international cultural treasure for everyone from all backgrounds and ages to enjoy and learn from.
As I drive to work each morning now, I go through the center of Czech Village and I see the Bridge of Lions and NewBo ahead of me. I feel like I am in Europe! There is a magic here that is incredible to experience. Then I drive to our NCSML and wow…..the magic continues in live color. Our past and present NCSML staff, Board of Trustees, volunteers, supporters, members, and former President and CEO Gail Naughton have developed a place where Czech and Slovak culture is celebrated and preserved around family and community. Our national museum and library have developed into a true educational epicenter where everyone of all ages can learn about our rich heritage and discuss the issues that our ancestors dealt with — and how these issues and challenges are relevant in today’s global society.
As a fourth-generation Czech and Slovak, I am so proud of all that has been done for the NCSML. I grew up in the small Czech community of Tabor, South Dakota. When I went into first grade, I spoke Czech as well as English. It was not easy to maintain those language skills, but my parents and grandparents insisted that I speak Czech at home. I even played Czech theatre for six years in Tabor. I always played the “mlada slecna” (young girl). I am so grateful for my parents ongoing encouragement and love that they instilled in me for our “Czechoslovak” culture. I only remember the holidays in terms of the Czech and Slovak traditions that we celebrated with such joy and anticipation. My parents taught me well! I played the accordion at age 5 years. I started wearing kroj when I was three years old. This later passion has stayed with me. I now have 15 authentic kroj, some old and some new but all from both the Czech and Slovak Republics. I have spent all my life in higher education serving as a dean, vice president and president. One of my greatest accomplishments in the past 10 years has been the opening of doors for over 100 students and faculty of all nationalities to study in either the Czech or Slovak Republics and in turn welcoming students and faculty from there to the U.S. I feel like I have now reached the pinnacle in my career where I can combine my love for education and culture.
National museums and libraries like the NCSML have a major role to play in not only preserving the past but in celebrating the present and learning for the future to better understand how people and cultures can live in harmony and ultimately peace. Our Strategic Plan summarizes it so well: Be relevant, Become essential, Aim high and Celebrate life. Our future at the NCSML is so full of new opportunities and growth. I look forward to working with the community and all of our stakeholders from throughout the United States and abroad so that we can realize new programs, outstanding exhibits, and unique educational programs for persons of all ages and backgrounds. Thank you for your ongoing support and interest in the NCSML. Please come and visit us often, and please call or email me if you have any questions. If I know that you are coming, I will have the coffee and kolaces ready!
Dr. Cecilia Rokusek
319-360-1655 ext: 211