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On Tuesday, 19 May, the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) senate decided to grant the title of RSU Honorary Doctor (Doctor Honoris Causa) to Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former President of Latvia (1999–2007), Vilis Vītols, patron and Chairman of the Vītols Fund Council, and Zaiga Alksne-Phillips, paediatrician and founder of the Vītols Fund scholarship. The inauguration ceremony will take place on 24 March 2021 at the ceremonious senate meeting in honour of the 70th anniversary of RSU.

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga has urged Latvia to increase its international visibility with the bright minds and capabilities of its people. Following this call, RSU opted for a path of development focused on Western Europe and its values fifteen years ago and started promoting its education internationally. Today RSU has the largest number of international students in the Baltic States.

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga

Vīķe-Freiberga has said that any education, no matter how specialised it is, provides general skills in self-discipline, purposefulness, willpower, and work ethic. These are the characteristics of someone who is able to take responsibility and make decisions independently. This approach to education, promoting responsibility and versatility, has always been promoted at RSU.

The former president has established extensive cooperation with the RSU Faculty of European Studies, amongst others with Dean Prof. Andris Sprūds and lecturer Mārtiņš Daugulis. Vīķe-Freiberga is also a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and supports the development of the European Foreign Policy Scorecard. Many lecturers and students at the RSU Faculty of European Studies have participated in drafting the edition for several years. Vīķe-Freiberga has fostered experience exchange for lecturers and students from the RSU Faculty of European Studies and their participation in various international conferences and forums. Additionally, she has established a scholarship within the Vītols Fund, which is granted to three students each year. Among this year’s recipients is Evija Blumberga, a student in the Political Science and Political Communication study programme at the RSU Faculty of European Studies.

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former President of Latvia (1999-2007), has been awarded the RSU Honorary Doctorate degree for her long-term support of Latvian education and science on an international level, as well as for her support to the professional development of social sciences lecturers and students at RSU, including internationally significant research on regional and transnational relations.

The Vītols Fund was established on 4 April 2002 with the aim to grant scholarships to help hard-working, talented young people to study at Latvian universities. The initiative undertaken by the Vītols family appealed to many others who have since joined and entrusted their scholarships to the Vītols Fund.

Vilis Vītols

Currently, more than 200 donors support the Vītols Fund. Thanks to the Fund’s support approximately 40 young people receive these scholarships annually and can start their studies at RSU. Approximately 150 students at RSU receive scholarships from the Fund each year. Students continue to receive the scholarship until they graduate. The Fund also provides special scholarships to those undergoing their residency training. Over the last 18 years, the Fund has provided support to nearly 500 RSU students, disbursing more than half a million euros in scholarships.

The title of Honorary Doctor has been granted to patron Vilis Vītols for his unselfish, long-term contribution to the professional growth and development of RSU students.

Zaiga Alksne-Phillips is a paediatrician from the United States of Latvian descent. She visited Latvia for the first time in 1987 and has since then selflessly provided Latvian children and medical institutions with help and support, shared her experience of treating children with local doctors and consulted patients. Employees from the Department of Paediatrics of the RSU Faculty of Medicine have had a long, professional relationship with Zaiga Alksne-Phillips.

Zaiga Alksne-Philips

Employees from the department meet with her every year to exchanging information about current topics in paediatrics, discuss children’s healthcare and exchange books and journals as gifts. Zaiga Alksne-Phillips’ contribution to paediatric training in both the United States and Latvia is of particularly high value. In 2010, Zaiga Alksne-Phillips founded a scholarship named after her to support paediatricians. Two students have been trained with her help: Indra Stiureniece (RSU, Paediatrics) and Simona Paule (RSU, Medicine). Both young doctors have received widespread international recognition. The current recipient of the scholarship is Mareks Marčuks (RSU, Medicine).

Zaiga Alksne-Phillips has been awarded the RSU Honorary Doctorate degree for her selfless long-term contribution to the professional growth and development of RSU students, for supporting education, international experience exchange and paediatric research over many years. 

RSU has awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa since 26 June 1990, when the University's Science Council adopted this decree. The title of Honorary Doctor is awarded by the University Senate for outstanding achievements and significant contribution to the development of Latvia and RSU.