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Former NC State Prague Director, Peter Kjaer, passed away

NC State European Center is saddened by the loss of Peter Kjaer, who served as director from 2014-2018. He passed away in March 2021 in his home country Denmark surrounded by his family.

Peter Kjaer was the first recipient of the “Outside of the Box” award granted by the College of Design. As Art Rice, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture, describes, the award honors a person who demonstrates a “willingness to challenge administrative and managerial assumptions and to think differently about attacking problems.” Peter was indeed a visionary with charisma and great enthusiasm. In his four years leading NC State European Center (The Prague Institute, before 2017), he introduced new courses, such as Astronomy, Applied Mathematics, Curatorship, Set Design, Sociology, and User Experience Design, bringing variety to the course catalog.

Peter Kjaer receiving the College of Design “Outside of the Box” award.

Peter truly believed in interdisciplinarity. He created a space where students could learn from each other’s disciplines. Students were not the only ones to be inspired by Peter Kjaer. As English Instructor Blanka Maderova shared, Peter would “foster their inner personal development and growth” and “create a pleasant and friendly working environment,” adds Irena Bujarkova, drawing and etching instructor. 

Before coming to the Prague Institute, Peter Kjaer was a well-known Danish architect with international experience in developing and managing architectural education. He had also served as the rector for the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark and the founding rector of the Umea School of Architecture in Sweden.

End of semester’s final presentations at NC State Prague, Spring 2018

An energetic man with a creative mind, Peter thrived in social gatherings and in meetings with students. Adam Gebrian, architecture instructor, recalls a moment that will stick with him forever. During a final project review, a student was presenting his architecture project on elderly housing. In his 3D renderings, older people sat on huge armchairs as if waiting to die. Peter stood up and asked a simple question: How old are the people in that drawing? The student answered 65. Peter looked at the student and said: Look at me (dressed in a black leather motorbike jacket and jeans), do you know what I do? Do you know how I spend my time? Do I look like a person sitting in that armchair? Because I am 65! 

In 2017, the Prague Institute became a  unit of the Office of Global Engagement and was renamed the NC State European Center in Prague. Kjær was instrumental in that transition, and we owe him credit for moving the location of the school to the center of the city off the Old Town Square. The NC State Prague building offers incoming students an exceptional place in Prague and a fabulous space to study.

To make a contribution to the Study Abroad Fund in Peter Kjaer’s memory, click here. Please select the Study Abroad Support Fund (bottom option), and under ‘additional options,’ select ‘honor, memory, or support information and add “Kjaer” as Honoree Name.

Leave a tribute on the portal created in Peter’s memory and shared with his family.