A Worldwide movement

When Harry and Mr. Rockefeller opened the first International House in New York in 1924, they attracted a great deal of attention and Harry talks about them being approached by others wishing to have an International House too. Mr. Rockefeller advised that they should pause for breath and see how the House worked out before building again. But it seems that their passion for the idea and interest from others meant that pause was very short with the Berkeley House being opened in 1930 and Chicago in 1932. These were the original three Rockefeller funded Houses. Then the building of Maison International as part of the Cite Universitaire in Paris.

Since then International Houses have come and gone and some have been closer to the original idea than others. Harry talks in his memoirs of his frustration when those wanting to create a new House did not get the importance of design of the building to create the intermingling of residents and cultural programs.

Madrid – was built in the 1920s and housed 250 residents, it was completely destroyed in the Spanish Civil war

Geneva – 1935 founded by Nellie Tullis and later run by Violette Baulmer

Rome – was much discussed but never realised. The Palazzo Salviatti on the banks of the Tiber just outside the Vatican was identified as the potential building but procrastination meant that the project missed the post war reconstruction project funding.

Japan – Harry was in Japan just before the start of WWII and was along way down the road of finding a site. The war stopped all plans. The Rockefeller Foundation funded International House Japan in the 1950s, which is membership organisation promoting cross cultural activities.

Keil – 1953 with space for 50 residents and 200 to dine

Gottingen – Opened in 1948 as Nansen House with twenty eight German students and eight international students, which increased by 1950 to forty eight students with a 50/50 German / international split. The House was then expanded to 100 residents and was opened to women too.

Today there are 18 institutions in the International Houses Worldwide group, in the UK, Australia, Romania, Canada and the USA. The criteria are simple, that they must offer residential accommodation for a diverse set of international students (usually over 100+ students), have a cultural program for the residents and a dining requirement that encourages eating together a key facilitator of understanding and friendship. The group come together once a year to exchange ideas and discuss ways to keep the I-House idea relevant and ensure it has a wider reach.

Talking to Hans Giesecke the current Executive Director at Berkeley, there is a strong desire from those involved in the current group to continue to expand the group and there already exist institutions with residences that could join. They are looking to Asia, Africa and South America for the next members of the group.

To find out more visit http://ihouseworldwide.org

Alumni Associations: The ebb and flow of the world wide alumni community of the Houses is also interesting. Harry and Mr Rockefeller’s ambition was to have a strong alumni community that was applying their learnings from their time in the House to both their personal and professional lives, particularly in the promotion of peace, tolerance and understanding. From 1947 this was particularly strong tens of active ‘Chapters’ across the world, these groups welcomed alumni from all the Houses under the umbrella organisation International House Association. International House Day on November 10th was a particular highlight when there would be gatherings around the world on the same day.

By 1961 there was no longer the funding to keep this central organisation going, so it was down to the enthusiasm of the alumni in different locations to meet up. Today the different Houses work hard to keep alumni connected through events and there are enthusiastic groups as well as individuals looking up fellow alumni when they travel. Meeting and hosting fellow alumni is a great way to keep passing the light on…

New York I-House alumni https://www.ihouse-nyc.org/alumni/alumni-chapters/

Berkeley I-House alumni http://ihouse.berkeley.edu/alumni/

Chicago I-House alumni https://ihouse.uchicago.edu/alumni/

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