This award supports graduate students for global learning experiences abroad in summer with preference given to students who apply with Czech or Slovak heritage.
Stanley Charles Prostrednik, also known as Stanley Preston and simply “Stanley” or “Standa” to his friends, was born in Nove Mesto n. Metuji, Czechoslovakia, the youngest of thirteen children. After a four-year apprenticeship in horticulture at the Jiran Greenhouses in Pardubice, Stanley worked as an assistant to the head horticulturist at Hradcany castle in Prague, the home of Czechoslovak President Tômas G. Masaryk. He was responsible for interior floral decorations as well as tributes for all State occasions.
Stanley was drafted for compulsory service in the Czechoslovak Army (1921-1925) and, upon discharge, worked in various capacities, including Station Master for the electric railroad in the Tatra Mountains. He married, but was widowed shortly after the birth of his only child, a daughter, Hana.
In 1932, Stanley did intelligence work for the Civil Defense Corps and also was active in the underground, assisting many fugitives to escape to Poland. In 1939, he was arrested by the Hlinka Garda, the Slovakian Gestapo, and imprisoned in various concentration camps, among them Ilava in Moravia, and Levoce in Slovakia. Stanley escaped, joined the Czechoslovak Army in Exile and fought in the Loire Valley. After the fall of France, he fled to Bermuda. There he had extensive surgery for injuries received in the concentration camps.
He then worked at the Department of Agriculture Experimental Station taking care of the gardens in the Governor’s House and Admiralty House. While in Bermuda, through the International Red Cross, he located his daughter in Czechoslovakia. He also met with Ján Masaryk who was en route to Washington, D. C., for an audience with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Stanley next came to the United States for further medical attention. A visit to a friend in Chicago led to positions with several florists and then to a military specialty parts company as a machinist. During this time, he began speaking to numerous Czech, Slovak, fraternal and civic organizations about his experiences in the concentration camps and with the Czechoslovak Army in Exile. He also had a reunion with President Eduard Benes whom he had known in Prague as Secretary of State under President Masaryk.
When his employer relocated in New Lexington, Ohio, Stanley, still a machinist, also transferred. He became involved in organizing a Youth Center and helped to set up a physical fitness program. In 1945, he moved to Pittsburgh to be closer to his sister Magda. In the summer of 1947, he became horticulturist and landscape architect at Hartwood, Mary Flinn Lawrence’s estate in Fox Chapel. He remained in this position after Hartwood was acquired by Allegheny County, until he retired in 1981 at the age of 80.
In retirement, Stanley continued to garden and to pursue his many interests, all loyal to the Czechoslovak cause: the Sokols, which he had served as Chairman and then as Secretary; the Nationality Rooms Council; and the Czechoslovak Room Committee, serving as its Treasurer from 1957 until his death. Stanley’s many associations at the University of Pittsburgh and his interest in young people prompted him and his second wife, the late Anna Punzak of Munhall, to establish the Stanley Prostrednik Award in 1977, an annual scholarship by which a student could study during the summer in Czechoslovakia or another country. Stanley also collected almost 5,000 books by Czech or Slovak authors for Hillman Library, as well as works relevant to Czechoslovak language, literature, history, and culture, many of them rare editions.
His autobiography, Long Journey: Memoirs of a Czechoslovak Patriot, completed before his death, awaits publication.
-biography prepared by Margaret Mary Vojtko