2007 Prize awarded to Olivier Fatio, President and Founder of the International Museum of the Reformation
Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 6:00 pm, Calvin Auditorium, Geneva
The words and music went on without ever tiring the audience, which was pleased with this subtle, distinguished and humorous oratory, which was entirely in keeping with the personality of the laureate.
The eulogy was delivered by a former student of the laureate, Professor Marianne Carbonnier-Burkard, who teaches the history of modern Christianity at the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Paris. The President of the State Council, Mr. Charles Beer, and the Administrative Councillor, Mrs. Sandrine Salerno, joined the President of the Foundation for Geneva, Mr. Guillaume Pictet, in expressing their admiration for Professor Olivier Fatio for his remarkable career as a theologian and historian. They also expressed their gratitude for his decisive contribution to the creation of the International Museum of the Reformation.
An academic at the service of Geneva’s values and traditions
Following in the footsteps of his spiritual fathers, Jacques de Senarclens, Gabriel Widmer, Jaques Courvoisier, Pierre Fraenkel, J.N. Bakhuizen Vanden Brink, and Alain Dufour and Henry Meylan, Olivier Fatio has devoted his life to the study and teaching of the history of Christianity.
He began his career in 1972 as an ordinary professor at the University of Geneva’s autonomous Faculty of Theology and soon became its dean, a position he held periodically for nearly twenty years, among other functions.
Professor Olivier Fatio, who holds a doctorate in theology, is a recognized reference for anyone interested in the study of theology, the Reformers and their successors, or the history of Geneva. It is with panache, simplicity and rigor that he enjoys sharing his vast knowledge with everyone, whether through his writings or his conferences.
Beyond his teaching activity and his writings, Olivier Fatio is also a man of commitments. Thus he was called upon to preside over many learned societies, including the Société d’histoire et d’archéologie de Genève, the Société pour l’histoire du refuge huguenot en Suisse, and the Commission internationale d’histoire ecclésiastique comparée.
The builder’s spirit of openness: the International Museum of the Reformation
It is this same movement of openness from the past to the present, from the scholar to his public, that pushed Olivier Fatio to leave university teaching in 2002 to devote himself to the project launched by Pastor Max Dominicé during the 1959 Calvinist jubilee. This project will see its culmination in 2005 with the creation of the International Museum of the Reformation. His vision: to present the history of the Reformation, as it developed in Geneva and from Geneva, to make it accessible and lively, as much for the passionate connoisseur as for the neophyte, whatever their age, their origin or their beliefs. This is a major and long-term challenge, but one that he has never ceased to take up, with a remarkable team of museographers, patrons and other members, whom he has been able to mobilize and to whom he has been able to transmit his enthusiasm and his passion: barely two years after its creation, the museum is already among the prestigious winners of the Council of Europe Prize!
A tribute from Geneva
As Micheline Calmy-Rey, now President of the Swiss Confederation, regularly emphasizes, Geneva has, throughout its history, forged a great tradition of dialogue, sharing and openness. Born of the Reformation, its humanitarian tradition has given it a special responsibility.
There is no doubt that, through his commitment to making the history of Geneva and the adventure of the Reformation more accessible to as many people as possible, Professor Olivier Fatio is fully involved in spreading the spirit of Geneva. If he contributes to transmitting beyond generations and borders the understanding of our values and traditions, he also allows everyone to dare to take a breath.
By awarding this Prize, the Fondation pour Genève also wished to offer the Geneva authorities the opportunity to express their gratitude to a man who was able to solicit private financial support and thus make possible the creation of the International Museum of the Reformation.
400 people came to the Salle Centrale de la Madeleine to pay a vibrant tribute to their friend Olivier and his partner and wife Nicole Fatio. This place was not chosen at random, as this hall was created in 1905, under the aegis of Ernest Hentsch, in order to respond to the need for additional rooms to hold assemblies and other meetings dedicated to Protestantism!