A. Raisters with the President of Latvia, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, in the early 2000s in Riga.

Contribution of compatriot to Latvian ethos and propagation of national objectives

Olympic pursuit of citius, altius, fortius. The story of Alfrēds Raisters (1921–2012) in three words is – faster, higher, stronger. It is a biography that inspires and motivates people with immense interest and willpower to achieve outstanding results. Alfrēds Raisters, a doctor of engineering, was a patient and a very altruistic person. To him it was important to serve a greater purpose – education of future generations and development of Latvia.

Alfrēds Raisters was born in Riga. He studied at the University of Latvia Faculty of Mechanics (at present – Riga Technical University) but was forced to leave Latvia during World War II. He holds a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Stuttgart, Germany. The subsequent path takes him the United States, where he spent the rest of his life creating a successful engineering career, working for world-leading companies, while constantly improving his knowledge about, and keeping in mind, his homeland – Latvia. For 19 years (1992–2011), A. Raisters served as an Honorary Consul of the Republic of Latvia in Southern California.

A strong philosophy of life

Dr.ing. Raisters married Ludmila (née Novickis) (1923–2016), and their offspring – Silvija and Ēriks Raisters – were raised in the family that cherished Latvian culture. “Both of my parents came to America from the German DP (displaced persons) camps with one suitcase of belongings.  Many of them were science books. They always reminded us that the only thing you have that cannot be taken away by the authority is your education, your knowledge and what is inside your head. Therefore, it is important to provide schooling opportunities for everyone, so that the spirit of education and science prevails in our world,” reminisces his son Ēriks Raisters.

The personal experience of Alfrēds Raisters, as acknowledged by those around him, prompts not to stop at achievements and seek beyond the professional ambitions, aspiring to wisdom of life and the ability to share accomplishments. He was a Latvian who was characterized by an immeasurable entrepreneurial spirit and a desire for continuous improvement. An outstanding personality who motivates and inspires to succeed and set goals. The beneficiaries of his scholarship continue to raise awareness of the patron's willingness to share the achievements of his life and to support young scientists and researchers in their studies.

Ever since 1948 A. Raisters was an active member of the student corporation Lettonia. First in Germany and later on in the US, Washington and Southern California. “When we were living in Los Angeles, my father introduced me to a student at the Lettonia corporation and taught me tuxedo lessons. Once a month we went on an hour-long drive in each direction to attend Lettonia meetings. He also taught me how to handle a rapier and shield as part of my upbringing,” Eric remembers happily.

Dr. ing. Alfrēds Raisters’ professional career began as an engineer at Boeing in 1955, when he acquired US nationality. He spent 25 years of his working life at Hughes Aircraft Company, where he tested satellites and the utility of various vehicles in a simulation laboratory and led projects in the laser department. After retiring at the age of 76, A. Raisters continued to work for the firm as a consultant, giving lectures, and devoted his time to the California Science Center, where he designed student education programs.

Doctor of Engineering Management, Latvian expat, Honorary Consul of Latvia in Southern California – Alfrēds Raisters (1921–2014).

Excellence in sport, science, and daily life

In addition to his work, in 1973 Alfrēds Raisters earned a master's degree in business administration (MBA) from the Pepperdine University, California, but in 1988 – a doctorate in engineering from Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Dr. ing. A. Raisters has lectured on project management at international conferences and universities around the world.

Alfrēds Raisters was a passionate athlete – he took up fencing, sailing, rowing, playing volleyball and basketball, furthermore, he trained American athletes in the aforementioned disciplines. Later he started playing tennis, which he continued to do all his life. He had attended three Olympics. “Father was also an outstanding athlete. When I was young, we both spent Saturday mornings playing for several hours on my high school pitches, both in doubles against friends and in singles. We even won some local doubles tournaments together,” remembers Ēriks.

The funds raised during his lifetime patron A. Raisters gave to five universities of the world which had played a significant role in his life and career, including the University of Latvia and Riga Technical University, both based in Riga. In 2016, the University of Latvia received $ 223 000 for establishment of a patronage memorial grant, according to the will and testament of Alfrēds Raisters. Since then, scholarships of A. Raisters have been awarded annually to the UL graduate and doctoral students of natural sciences. “This scholarship is intended for prospective scientists who already know what they want to do, how to fund their plans, best of all, for support of a project or research already in place,” emphasizes Dr. ing. A. Raister's daughter, Silvija Būmane-Sila. One of the important conditions for receiving support is the student's readiness to remain in Latvia for the duration of the scholarship period.

Latvian inheritance

The son of A. Raisters – Ēriks, and his partner Inese currently reside in Mukilteo, State of Washington in the north-west of the United States. Ē. Raisters has been working in cyber-security for more than twenty years and currently is a system manager at “F5 Networks”.  He has a degree in geology and oceanography, and 17 years ago he was employed as a geo-physicist. “Inese and I have been very active in the Seattle Latvian community. We participate in the folk-dance ensemble, sing in the choir and contribute our time to the local parishes,” says Ēriks. On top of that, Inese Bergmanis-Raisters was the head of the folk-dance ensemble “Trejdeksnītis” for 15 years, while Ēriks was the administrator and cashier of the ensemble.

“Latvia needs people who are educated and tactical. New projects and research provide the opportunity to broaden one’s horizons,” recounts the daughter of A. Raisters Silvija Būmane-Sila (1952), who currently resides in Riga. Once upon a time, she had her own physiotherapy practice, and to this day still teaches further education courses in physiotherapy. Retelling the special memory of her father, Silvija remembers him saying: “My father at a great age revealed to me that he had hoped that his years serving in defense would have helped contribute to the end of warfare. That did not happen, so at the eve of his life he became a pacifist and turned to diplomacy.”

Ē. Raisters notes that it has been a pleasure to follow the UL and RTU students, who have won his father’s scholarship, and their individual successes. Although he has not had the opportunity to meet them face to face, he hopes that in the future, after retiring, he will have that chance. At this point in time, his visits to Latvia take place only on special occasions as the Latvian Song and Dance Festival or the anniversaries of the student corporation Lettonia. “Young people with knowledge are our future. If we all are not happy to invest time and means into the betterment of people who do not possess critical thinking for the ability to solve the world’s problems together, what kind of a world will we have left behind?! The consequences of this we see vividly in our national politics, especially USA’s, but also that of other Western democracies.”

Viesturs Zandersons: two-time scholar, a researcher of the Earth, a guitar player

“The Alfrēds Raisters Memorial Scholarship has been an essential contributor to my academic life and growth. It has allowed me to become involved in international scientific circles. Obtaining a scholarship, of course, also provides a very significant emotional support. It's nice to know that your work has been positively appreciated and someone is ready to support your ideas and success. Therefore, I would like to thank the University of Latvia Foundation, as well as the family of Alfrēds Raisters, who have given me this opportunity to devote more of my time to science, the University of Latvia and the things that give me satisfaction and make me happy.”

Anna Kiršteina: two-time scholar, a molecular biologist, a choir singer

“Being one of the recipients of the Alfrēds Raisters Memorial Scholarship is both a testament to my ability and my promise of continuous improvement to contribute to the development of Latvia through my achievements. Thanks to the scholarship, I have not only had the opportunity to get a quality education at the University of Latvia, but also a chance to challenge myself to achieve excellence in academic world and research. The scholarship has greatly assisted me in my personal and professional growth – both practically helping to pay for participation in various professional development courses, and indirectly introducing me to inspiring people and new opportunities.”

About the University of Latvia Foundation

Since 2004, the UL Foundation provides an opportunity to patrons and cooperation partners to support both the University of Latvia and other leading higher education institutions of our country, thereby investing in the future of Latvia. The priorities of the UL Foundation are to support the most outstanding, dedicated students and researchers, to advance creation of a modern study environment, as well as to promote construction and refurbishment of university’s buildings.

About “Friends of the University of Latvia”

Since 2012, the non-profit organization “Friends of the University of Latvia” has been uniting American citizens of Latvian origin – supporters of the University of Latvia. It is the partner organization of the UL Foundation, founded by the initiative of John J. Medveckis. By donating to this Foundation, US citizens can receive tax deduction. The main task of the foundation is to ensure a brighter future for Latvian education.


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