VMU Awarded Honorary Doctorate to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

  • 2023-07-05

Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) has bestowed the title of Honorary Doctor on the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The title has been granted to him for extraordinary leadership in the fight for Ukrainian freedom, democracy, and humanist values hereby presenting the young generation with the best example of dignity, determination, and moral strength.

“We are convinced that President Zelenskyy’s remarkable perseverance, unwavering resilience, and wise guidance will lead Ukraine to its well-deserved ultimate victory. VMU community will staunchly stand in the support of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters and we are highly appreciative that he has granted us a privilege by accepting VMU Doctor Honoris Causa and becoming our honorary member”, VMU Rector Prof. Juozas Augutis said.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the President of the Republic of Ukraine, a politician, former comedian, actor, TV show host, and director, who became the head of state in 2019. When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Zelenskyy declared mobilisation and martial law, but remained in Kyiv himself, earning international recognition by his actions and leadership and becoming a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance. That same year, Politico named him the most powerful person in Europe, while the Time magazine selected him as the Person of the Year. Zelenskyy was also awarded Freedom Prize by the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania.

According to VMU Vice-Rector for Communication Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vilma Bijeikienė, the university also supports the values of democracy, freedom, and justice that are important to His Excellency Volodymyr Zelenskyy. VMU maintains exceptional relations with Ukraine’s academic community: the university has over 30 cooperation agreements with the country’s institutions, several of which are with universities on exile from the war-ridden territories. 

“In 2022, the university accepted over 300 Ukrainian students, hosting some of them with their families. We are also glad Mariupol State University has been invited as an associated partner to our European University Alliance “Transform4Europe”. But above all, we are especially proud to have joined the initiative of the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and the First Lady of Lithuania Diana Nausėdienė to open the Center of Ukraine at VMU in June 2022”, said Assoc. Prof. Bijeikienė, noting that the Center instantaneously became an important hub of humanitarian support and educational oasis to Ukrainian community. Since its establishment, it has been visited by over 24,000 Ukrainians.

“We deeply value and cherish our strong cooperation with Vytautas Magnus University, which has been and remains a steadfast supporter of Ukraine by various means. From strengthening academic ties with Ukrainian universities to supporting the Ukrainian academic community, from welcoming our students to co-creating unique outstanding project the Center of Ukraine, opened under the patronage of the First Lady of Ukraine and Lithuania. Once again, by bestowing the title of Honorary Doctor on the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, VMU expressed the strongest voice in support of Ukraine in its fight for freedom. We are proud to have partners such as the devoted VMU community and look forward to promoting democracy and shared European values benefiting both our countries today and beyond our common victory", Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Lithuania Petro Beshta emphasized.

About Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Volodymyr Zelenskyy was born in Kryvyj Rih, Ukraine, to Jewish parents. While studying at the School No. 95, where English was taught at an advanced level, he was a good student and the class monitor who participated in various activities. He graduated with a law degree from Kyiv National Economic University. From the start of the studies, he became involved in creative work: the activities of the Club of the Funny and Inventive People (KVN); later, he founded the Studio Kvartal 95, a production company that created successful TV projects, series and feature films.

Zelenskyy has acted in various films, including Love in the Big City and its sequels, 8 First Dates, Me. You. He. She and others. In the popular TV series Servant of the People, Zelenskyy starred as an ordinary history teacher who suddenly becomes famous and is elected the President of Ukraine. 

Volodymyr Zelenskyy won the Ukrainian presidential election with 73 percent of the vote, defeating Petro Poroshenko decisively in the second round. As president, he committed to fight corruption, actively supported the unity between the Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking parts of the country's population, and contributed to Ukraine’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession that followed it.

In late 2021, Russia started amassing military forces near the border with Ukraine; on 24 February 2022, it launched a full-scale military invasion. “This battle is not only for the territory, for this or another part of Europe. The battle is not only for life, freedom and security of Ukrainians or any other nation which Russia attempts to conquer. This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren. It will define whether it will be a democracy of Ukrainians and for Americans — for all”, Zelenskyy said while addressing the U.S. Congress.

In information warfare, Ukraine has acquired a weapon for which Putin has no answer: Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s communication skills, media understanding and long-term experience in the field of entertainment. Both in video recordings and in live meetings, Zelenskyy asked for support to Ukraine from all countries of the world. The Ukrainian President’s efforts were successful: the Western countries sent many anti-tank weapons, surface-to-air missile systems, HIMARS etc. Moreover, the sanctions against the aggressor were some of the strictest in history. On 23 June 2022, Ukraine was granted the status of candidate for accession to the European Union.  


Other VMU Honorary Doctors include Nobel Laureates Czesław Miłosz and Svetlana Alexievich, writer Tomas Venclova, avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas, sociologist, thinker and professor Zygmunt Bauman, President of Yale University (USA) Peter Salovey, anthropologist and environmentalist Prof. Birutė Galdikas, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, presidents (heads of state) Valdas Adamkus (Republic of Lithuania), Michael D. Higgins (Ireland), Bronisław Komorowski (Republic of Poland), Vaira Vike Freiberga (Republic of Latvia) and others.