Hannes Richter

Montclair – Graz

Hannes Richter

Sixty Years of Austria – U.S. Partnership 

The City of Graz, Austria, and Montclair, New Jersey have shared an enduring “sister city” partnership since 1949 and have reaped invaluable benefits of cultural and academic exchange. At an anniversary celebration on November 3, 2009, hosted by Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole, the Austrian Ambassador to the U.S. Christian Prosl, distinguished Austrian representatives, members of the Board of Trustees of the University, Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried and the President of Montclair Overseas Neighbors Juliana Belcsak were all in attendance. 

Sister City Partnership of Graz and Montclair

The Montclair – Graz Sister City bond was formed under the world peace efforts pioneered by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower after WW II. Seeking an alternative to the wars he had witnessed as a soldier, general and Allied Commander, he noted that world peace and international collaboration could not be accomplished by governments alone but by the “understanding and mutual respect between individuals” based on direct contact between ordinary people. In an initiative to support this vision, he created the “People-to-People” program, and the cities of Montclair and Graz were among the first to participate. 

Later, President Eisenhower called the Montclair Overseas Neighbors program, which sponsors Montclair’s sister city relationship with Graz, the “cornerstone of people-to-people diplomacy.” As the president of Overseas Neighbors, Juliana Belcsak, explains, the outreach with Graz began before the Marshall Plan (1947). Directly after the war, Montclair was sending medical supplies and Care packages to Austria while Mountainside Hospital contributed an urgently needed x-ray machine and an incubator to the bombed-out hospital in Graz.  

The Montclair Overseas Neighbor Program

Today the relationship has resulted in an active exchange of students, prominent business executives, government officials, scientists, engineers and cultural representatives, including individual singers and large orchestras. Many Austrian physicians have interned at Mountainside Hospital. In 2003 when Graz was the European Cultural Capital, artists from “Studio Montclair” were featured in one of the international exhibits and invited to participate in a conference and symposium. In addition, every five years delegations of 35-40 people from Montclair and Graz alternate visits to their partner city.  

Within the framework of the Graz-Montclair sister city partnership, many faculty and student exchange programs have developed over the years. Every year Montclair sponsors two students from Montclair State University to study at the University of Graz and the University of Graz sends two Austrian students to study at Montclair State University. Countless students have participated in this rewarding educational experience, thereby broadening their understanding of the other country’s culture and people. 

In 2009 several new exchange programs were added. In a recent program created by Montclair State University’s Global Education Center and School of Business, twelve graduate students, all of whom are studying Business Administration from Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Austria, spent the month of July at Montclair State studying International Business. As participants in the MBA and American Studies Program, students worked side by side with Montclair students, attended presentations and met executives from companies such as CNBC Studios, Newark Liberty International Airport and JP Morgan Chase.The group also toured the United Nations, where it was honored with a private briefing given by the Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Mayr-Harting. A corresponding program for MBA students from Montclair is being developed in Graz.  

Another new bilateral student exchange agreement signed on June 8, 2009, now offers Austrian students from the School of Music and Performing Arts of Graz the opportunity to participate in a year-long exchange at the Cali School of Music at Montclair State.