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“Be decent because decency pays off on the long run.” – that’s the message of the co-founder of Mathias Corvinus Collegium to MCC students. Apropos of his decoration conferred on 23 October, we talked with Balázs Tombor about past and future.
How did you feel when you learnt that on 23 October you would receive the Knight’s Cross (Civil Division) of the Hungarian order of Merit?
Honestly, I was very surprised. I would never have thought of it – that’s the truth. I received an unexpected letter from the Prime Minister’s Office informing me of the decoration. I was truly honoured to be granted and to receive the Knight’s Cross from Minister Gergely Gulyás. This recognition is a major honour to my entire family. My wife accompanied me to the ceremony and after receiving the decoration my children Kata, András and Bálint warmly congratulated me at the venue. And in the morning my son, Balázs bade me farewell. So, one way or another all my family was involved.
With this Cross, the Hungarian State recognised your work and achievements as co-founder of Mathias Corvinus Collegium. Where does the idea of establishing a talent management institution and foundation stem from?
In 1996 my family was in the fortunate position of receiving a considerable amount of money by reason of a successful investment. It was my son, András who came up with the idea of spending this money on the establishment of a charitable foundation. And, evidently, I got involved in Tihany Foundation as a co-founding trustee, so that’s how simply it all started. And although development was very slow – initially not having an office or any equipment –, it had a nice family atmosphere and the future was promising. From the very beginning, highly reputable people took the cause of talent management up; let me just mention Ferenc Mádl and László Sólyom of the most prominent supporters.
You have three sons and a daughter and we can call Mathias Corvinus Collegium your fifth child...
That’s absolutely true.
As father of several children, how difficult is it to part with the youngest one? The Collegium is now facing a new chapter in its life owing to the state’s involvement. The place and tasks of Tihanyi Foundation were taken over by a new operator, Mathias Corvinus Collegium Foundation.
I would be lying if I said the news of transformation did not affect me deeply. But the more information I received on the nature of the change and what new opportunities it opened up before Mathias Corvinus Collegium in terms of expansion, student number and training on Central European level, the more relieved I became. We, the initial founders could never have created such conditions. Therefore, I do not have bad feelings or a feeling of loss. Quite the contrary in fact. Thus, the change is also comforting. I believe the current leaders are the token of keeping up the right direction of development in harmony with the initial objectives of the founders and the spirit of the institution. I will certainly keep abreast of the events and follow the MCC-related news. Even more so as a grandchild of one of my brothers is also a student of MCC Veszprém.
In 1956 you were 12 years old. What are your memories of the revolution?
Although I am from Buda as I was born in Csörsz Street, my mother wanted me and my three brothers to have memories of the days of the revolution and therefore, she took us to Pest. In addition to the nice and glorious moments, I also have sad memories: we saw the hangings, the bombing of Üllői Street... Our house at Csörsz Street was also hit: The area of the current MCC building was Kocsis-rét at the time. The Russians settled there and fired shots to the slopes of Sas-hegy. They even fired at the historical cannons lined up in front of the Museum of Military History.
Your father died at the end of World War 2. Did you have a patron to help you in building and pursuing your career?
Fortunately, our family was very thoughtful and close-knit, and I cannot mention anyone other than my family members. For this reason, I am also always pleased to hear of the remarkable careers pursued by MCC-graduate talents. It is good to hear of and witness their achievements.
What message do you have for MCC students?
That’s a difficult question. What could I possibly give them? Needless to say, they should learn because this is the primary expectation, their main duty. I think it is important that they should be decent because decency pays off on the long run. Our conscience must not be ignored for momentary gains. They should be loyal to others and they should be loyal to themselves. When grown old, they should be able to look themselves in the mirror proudly.
He was born on 22 March 1944 in Budapest. From his childhood, he worked (together with his siblings) during summer holidays, mostly in Siófok, Lake Balaton, thus falling in love with the catering industry. He worked in a canteen in Tihany and was waiter in Balatongyörök. Despite being a native of Buda, he settled in Csopak thanks to a “young lady from Lake Balaton”. “After getting married, we lived in a small room at my mother’s. It was a difficult period but when the first opportunity offering a director job in a hotel at Csopak arose, I seized it.” From 1971, he had worked at the same place for 25 years, then struggled with – and eventually surmounted – the difficulties caused by the regime change. In the past decade he suffered from several diseases and underwent several major operations but despite these physical challenges, “thanks to his good humour received from the Almighty”, he would not let himself become low-spirited and is optimistic about the future. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and news and each morning he goes for a leisurely walk for one and a half hours between Csopak and Paloznak. “I love strolling. After a good walk, life feels so much easier.”
Photo: Prime Minister’s Office