The First Quarter Century (1920-1945)

The founding event of 1920 was the beginning of 75 years of glorious service to the cause set forth by Herbert Hoover. The first quarter century was characterized by the rapid development of exchange programs between the United States and Belgium and by the establishment of other Foundations through major capital gifts.
All the powers of the Corporation founded in 1920 were exercised by the Members of the Foundation who were also called Directors and divided in three classes with staggered terms. The daily governance was delegated to the Officers and an Executive committee. At the first meeting of the Members and Directors of May 3, 1920 the following Officers were elected: Herbert Hoover, Chairman and President; William B. Poland, Vice-President; Gates W. Mc.Garrah, Treasurer; Edgar Rickard, Comptroller and Secretary; Perrin Galpin, Assistant Secretary. There was also a Honorary President, Emile Francqui and a Vice-President, William B. Poland.

The idea of exchange fellowships between the United States and Belgium had been considered by members of the C.R.B. and by prominent Belgians during the war. After the armistice a temporary Fellowship Committee of the Commission for relief in Belgium set forth plans for the exchange. The Universities of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, California and Stanford agreed to the plan to receive two Belgian Fellows for graduate study. The Belgian Universities and technical schools agreed to receive an equal number of Americans. There was such an unexpectedly large number of Belgians that wished to take advantage of the opportunity that after the incorporation of the Foundation, the plan for the Belgians was broadened and additional American Universities were invited to join. This was the first experience for the Foundation of the asymmetric response in Belgium and in the United States, a fact that throughout its history will lead to a preponderance of Belgian Fellows. Actually by the third year of the program (1922-23) the number of Americans was reduced because of the inability of the Americans to obtain "graduate education" in Belgium along the model of the American system.

The first fellowships offered in 1920 were 24 in number from each country, without distinction of age or sex, and carried a generous stipend of $1,000 for Belgians in the USA and of 10,000 BEF for Americans in Belgium, full coverage of enrollment and examination fees, as well as all first class travel expenses. A clear sign that Mr. Hoover was in charge was the rule that Fellows could, if they preferred, travel second class and receive the saving in cash by the difference between the cost of passage in the first and second class! The first boat to the USA included 24 Belgian Fellows, and the maiden voyage to Belgium included 22 Americans. Noteworthy is that the first boat of Belgians included one woman, and the first boat of Americans counted already five women. Among the Belgians of 1920, four studied at each Harvard and the U. California, three studied at Columbia, two each at Yale, Princeton, M.I.T., Stanford, and one each at Cornell U. Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, Chicago, and the Mayo Clinic. A photograph of the boat of 1920 is reproduced. The first group included Paul van Zeeland and Charles du Bus de Warnaffe, who each were to be appointed as members of the Belgian Cabinet in 1934. Among the Americans of the first group, four hailed each from Stanford and U. California, three each from Harvard and Yale, two each from Columbia and Princeton, one each from Radcliffe, Vassar, M.I.T., and Johns Hopkins. The outstanding assortment of universities that characterized the first crop of Fellows would become the hallmark of the Foundation's Fellowships throughout its history.

The first boat of Belgian Fellows in 1920

The activities of the Belgian American Educational Foundation included many expenses outside the graduate fellowship program. During 1920, the major portion of the income of B.A.E.F. was turned over to the Fondation Universitaire for its programs. In the subsequent years, eleven C.R.B. Chairs were endowed at the Universities of Brussels and Louvain , and the School of Mines at Mons in technical projects for a period of 15 years (1922-1936), as well as five Associate Fellowships. Visiting professorships in both countries were inaugurated in 1922, and Advanced fellowships in 1925. In addition a program of loans to Fellows was initiated in 1923 for purposes connected to their academic work. The Foundation gave support for the purchase of books at the Universities of Brussels and Louvain-Leuven. Special grants were given e.g. to Dr. Decroly with regard to the study of intelligence tests. In the field of child health, Belgian women teachers were selected for a year's of study at Columbia and M.I.T.

In 1921, the Fondation Universitaire - Universitaire Stichting received from Belgian American Educational Foundation an additional 30,000,000 BEF ($2,178,844). This made the total of Fondation Universitaire grants to have combined book value of $9,000,000.

The buildings of the university of Brussels in the Solbosch quarter

The Foundation also entered in 1922 into a contract with the Université Libre de Bruxelles to spend 15,000,000 BEF for land and buildings for the library and administration, for the housing of the Faculties of Philosophy and Law, and for dormitories for men and women students. With the intent of spurring on fundraising by the University of Brussels, the Foundation further promised to match every franc raised by two francs, and thus raised its commitment to 20,800,000 BEF.

The Foundation appointed an American, Mr. J.M. Howells as Consulting Architect to organize a competition open to Belgian architects for the plans of the buildings to be erected in the Solbosch quarter of Brussels. The cornerstone of the first building was laid on November 29, 1924 in the presence of H.R.H. Prince Leopold. The buildings were in use as of October 1929 but the formal dedication was postponed to June 23 and 24, 1930, when the new buildings of the Solbosch site at Avenue des Nations (Avenue Franklin Roosevelt) and the medical institute at Boulevard de Waterloo were officially inaugurated.

The Foundation provided money for repairs and construction of the new Library of the University of Louvain-Leuven, through an outright gift from B.A.E.F. and through a special fund-raising appeal made by Herbert Hoover in 1925. By December 1925, Mr. Herbert Hoover and Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler announced the completion of a $1,000,000 fund for the rebuilding of the Library at Louvain University. This fund included gifts of a few pennies each from half a million American school children and gifts of one dollar or more from students of practically every college, university, academy or preparatory school of the U.S.A.. The fund was completed with an outright gift of $432,500 from the Belgian American Educational Foundation, exceeding the target by $125,000, that was to be a capital allowing for the upkeep of the building.

The library of the University of Leuven

In 1925, the Belgian American Educational Foundation decided to distribute the major portion of all its assets in Belgian francs for the benefit of the Universities of Brussels and Leuven-Louvain in the form of two definite endowments. The Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Brussels and the Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Leuven-Louvain were officially recognized and approved by the Belgian Government in June 1926. These foundations engaged in the completion of the building program as well as in the general support of their university. In 1926 B.A.E.F. transferred about 34,500,000 BEF to the Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Brussels and about 20,000,000 BEF to the Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Leuven-Louvain. Ultimately with final grants made in 1927, the Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Brussels would be the recipient of $3,451,422 and the Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Leuven-Louvain would be the recipient of $1,609,848.

The Louvain Library was dedicated on July 4, 1928 in the presence of Crown Prince Leopold and Princess Astrid of Belgium, and a bronze bust of Mr. Hoover was unveiled in the Louvain Library. A clock and carillon of 48 bells in recognition of the then 48 United States were inaugurated at the same time. The clock and carillon were a gift of the Committee on War Memorial to American Engineers organized under the auspices of the United Engineering Society and affiliated engineering organizations. The Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Leuven-Louvain became also the recipient of an endowment given by the American Engineer's Committee for the upkeep of the clock and carillon. As discussed below the B.A.E.F. would play a role a half century later in the carillon's restoration.

The Foundation made a gift to the "Ecole Supérieure de Jeunes Filles" for the acquisition of a building in Brussels. The Foundation made a five-year grant in 1924 to the "Cercle des Alumni - Kring der Alumni" open to all persons who had received support from the Fondation Universitaire or the Belgian American Educational Foundation.

The starting capital of the Belgian American Educational Foundation in the first six years served as a conduit for further gifts in Belgium from the C.R.B. in liquidation. Because of the endowment gifts to institutions and the creation of new Foundations, it is more appropriate to take as the real starting capital of Belgian American Educational Foundation the assets that were held by this Foundation after completion in 1927 of all the mandates and transfers of the C.R.B. in liquidation. The principal assets of B.A.E.F. stood at $3,160,000 at the end of 1927.

The year 1927 is another important transition year in Belgium. Initiated by the speech of Seraing by King Albert I on October 1, 1927, a Committee was organized to foster scientific research through the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research. The Fondation Universitaire played a large part in the organization and campaign for the National Fund, and both organizations selected Mr. Jean Willems as their common director. The Fondation Universitaire and the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research would finally have in common the same President, Director, Treasurer as well as the Rectors of the Universities.

Whereas the program had started in 1920 with 24 Graduate Fellows per year, by 1927 the Belgian Fellowships were divided among 17 Graduate Fellows and 7 Advanced Fellows. After the disposition of nearly all Belgian assets of B.A.E.F., the leadership decided to curtail somewhat the fellowship program for 1928 with only 10 Graduate Fellows and 8 Advanced Fellows. This number of 10 Graduate Belgian and 8 Advanced Belgian Fellows and 3 Advanced American Fellows would remain the target for the years to follow. However, the Belgian Fellows selected each year proved to carry an extremely high promise. Among the boat of 1925 were Karel Bossart who would become famous in astronautics and the anthropologist Frans Olbrechts, and among the boat of 1926 were Gaston Eyskens and Jan-Albert Goris. The boat of 1927 carried 7 Advanced Fellows among which the future Nobel Prize of Physiology and Medicine Prof. Corneille Heymans, and the future Professors Pierre Rijlant and Richard Bruynoghe. For the year 1929-30, the 10 young Belgian Graduate Fellows included the later Nobel Prize Albert Claude, two young men who would become Minister: Baron Jean-Charles Snoy et d'Oppuers and Pierre Wigny, as well as the future Professors Zénon Bacq, Leon Elaut and Albert Lacquet. Overlapping in time with these was Marcel Florkin who obtained an extension of his 1928 fellowship.

In 1929 the Belgian American Educational Foundation decided to make an unrestricted gift of $25,000 to the projected Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine at Antwerp, and the implementation was deferred to 1931. This institute was inaugurated on November 4, 1933.

The Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical medecine at Antwerp

In 1932, the Belgian American Educational Foundation was the principal donor to establish a new Foundation in Belgium, the Francqui Foundation organized on February 27, 1932 in honor of Emile Francqui, the Honorary President of B.A.E.F.. For this specific purpose, the Belgian American Educational Foundation transferred in March 1932 securities valued at $1,000,000 to Fondation Universitaire, or 28% of all the capital then held by the Belgian American Educational Foundation. This was the last Foundation that would be created by the Belgian American Educational Foundation. As it was one of the main objectives of the Francqui Foundation to award a Francqui Prize to a Belgian who had made important contributions to science, it is not surprising that several of the B.A.E.F. Fellows would later become the recipient of this prestigious award.

Finally, in 1938 B.A.E.F. contributed $300,000 to Stanford University as about half the capital needed towards the erection of a building to house the Hoover Library, now known as the Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace. Extensive Belgian collections and records of the C.R.B. and of the Comité National are being preserved and displayed at the Hoover Institution.

The Hoover library at Stanford

A special educational initiative was the establishment of a Summer School of Art and Culture in Belgium, primarily for American students and teachers of Art in American colleges and universities, as well as members of the scientific staff of art museums. The University Summer Courses in the history of Flemish and Modern Belgian Art were given in 1937, 1938 and 1939.

In May 1938, the name of C.R.B. Educational Foundation was changed to the present name Belgian American Educational Foundation, Inc. in order to make its title more descriptive of its activities. However, the initials C.R.B. were used for a very long time as the title of the fellowships.

During the first quarter century the Foundation had its first office in the USA at 42, Broadway, New York and in Belgium at 41 Boulevard Bischoffsheim, where it had also a club house. Because the building at Boulevard Bischoffsheim was seriously damaged and rendered unfit for use in June 1931, the offices B.A.E.F. were moved to the building of the Fondation Universitaire at 11, rue d'Egmont - Egmontstraat in 1932, which is still the administrative seat of the Brussels office. The offices of the Foundation in New York were moved to 420, Lexington Avenue in the Graybar Building in January 1935.

During the invasion of Belgium in May 1940, the Brussels office continued its activities and the officers undertook to render emergency help to former Belgian fellows and Professors as well as to those organizations with which the Foundation was closely linked. A new Commission for Relief in Belgium, Inc. was incorporated on May 16, 1940, by means of a direct gift of the Foundation, to render such service as it could in Belgium. The Secretary in Belgium, Mr. Jacques van der Belen returned to the Brussels office on June 3, 1940 from his army service. The Vice-President in Belgium Mr. Tuck left Belgium on July 17, 1940. Communication of the New York office with the Brussels office ceased in December 1941.

The General Commissioner of the Belgian Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair was former Fellow Dr. Jan-Albert Goris, who would head in New York the Belgian Government Information Center for the Belgian Government in Exile. As a gesture of friendship, the Foundation purchased in June 1940 the Belgian Carillon from the Belgian Pavilion. The carillon of 35 bells was dismantled and given to Stanford University for installation in the Tower of the Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace in Palo Alto, California, where it was dedicated on June 20, 1941. During the war, the Foundation supported certain Belgian students who were in the United States or had found their way to the US, including on an exceptional basis some undergraduates. The Foundation's officers were asked to look after certain funds of Belgian universities and foundations that were deposited in the U.S.. As had been the case for the preceding twenty years the Foundation continued to buy subscriptions to more than 150 scientific and learned periodicals for use in Belgium. However, during the war they were stockpiled in the U.S. and safely delivered after the war. With the end of World War II, the first era of the Foundation came to a close.

Two features characterize this glorious first Quarter Century of the Foundation. Firstly, the Belgian American Educational Foundation was initially the principal financial beneficiary and residual legatee of the wartime Commission for Relief in Belgium, but passed the great majority of its assets to institutions and foundations in Belgium. The capital funds of B.A.E.F. gave birth in a major part to five other endowments, Fondation Universitaire, Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Brussels, Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Leuven-Louvain, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, and Francqui Foundation. Secondly, the Belgian American Educational Foundation enacted in each country a vigorous program of fellowships from which an intellectual elite would soon rise. By the start of World War I, nearly a quarter of the members of the teaching or research staffs of the four Belgian Universities had studied or traveled in the U.S.A. with the support of the Foundation. Throughout the first Quarter Century there was no restriction on the subjects of study for either Belgians or Americans. However, the Americans largely concentrated on the study of history, literature and philosophy, whereas the Belgians have been strong in the medical, applied sciences and social sciences, particularly economics. On the financial side, in every year of the period 1920-1945, income of the Foundation exceeded expenses. read more

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