Maria Kott Endowed Professorship of Polish Studies

The University of Washington has established the Maria Kott Endowed Professorship of Polish Studies at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. This is the first endowed professorship of Polish Studies on the West Coast of the United States and is in perpetuity, which assures that the Polish language and culture will be taught at the UW as long as the University exists. Recruitment for the position will start in the fall.

In December 2021, Ryszard Kott signed an agreement with the UW to establish the endowment to honor his late wife Maria who died two years ago. He donated over $350,000 to the Polish Studies endowment fund, doubling the amount that has been raised by the UW Polish Studies Endowment Committee since 2003 to over $700,000; he also pledged additional donations to raise the endowment to $1 million.

Maria, known to family and friends as “Isia”, was a wonderful, sharing person who loved poetry, music and other arts. She was a co-founder and an active member of the Polish Studies Endowment Committee, and her dream was to establish a chair of Polish Studies at the University of Washington.

Maria “Isia” Kott (1955-2020)

Maria Elżbieta Kott, née Kłoczowska, was born and raised in Poland in a patriotic family, which included university professors, lecturers and teachers, with strong attachment to Polish traditions and culture, as well as strong faith. By profession, she also was an educator. After moving to Seattle, Maria kept to her Polish roots and her sons grew up speaking Polish and knowing traditions and heritage of the old country. She was well versed in Polish culture and literature, and especially loved Polish poetry. She appreciated all arts, theatre and music, and enjoyed visiting great museums in America and all over the world. She also liked traveling and sightseeing natural wonders of national parks in the US and other countries. She was a wonderful and loving person, who always remembered about the less fortunate and supported them through the Catholic Church and trough different charities for the poor

Maria’s husband Ryszard always felt both lucky and incredibly privileged that such a wonderful person wanted to share her life with him. He arrived in Seattle in 1989 and they decided as a family to spend a year or two in the US so he could gain professional experience at a small and little-known company called Microsoft and their two young sons could learn English. It turned out they stayed for good. Feeling strongly about Polish culture and traditions, over time they both became active members of the local Polish American community, supporting different organizations and initiatives and promoting Polish culture and heritage in the Pacific Northwest. Maria and Ryszard organized the first exhibition of Polish artistic posters in Seattle and over the years Maria helped organizing several exhibitions related to Polish arts and history. She collected works of art, from Polish folk art through Pacific NW misty landscapes to works of her favorite painters Jerzy Nowosielski and Józef Czapski.

It was only natural for Maria to become a co-founder and an active member of the UW Polish Studies Endowment Committee. She helped with identifying and inviting distinguished speakers, organizing lectures, exhibitions, and auctions, to which she donated silver and amber jewelry, fine pottery, and small art pieces that she was bringing from Poland. She provided generous financial support for the Endowment Committee and for other Polish organizations.

Maria loved Polish culture and arts and knew in her heart that the Polish Studies program at the University of Washington could grow and become a beacon of knowledge about Polish culture. Her dream was to create the Endowed Chair of Polish Studies at the UW and she worked tirelessly to establish it. Ryszard felt it was only appropriate that an endowed position created to honor Isia should focus on Polish culture and arts.