Iván Völgyes Award

"I help, aggregate, articulate and comprehend mutual interests. The art is to be able to make sure that both sides' interests are clearly met." Dr. Iván Völgyes

In memoriam of Dr. Iván Völgyes, the American Chamber of Commerce launched the Dr. Iván Völgyes Award for promotion of Hungarian-American Business Relations in 2005.

AmCham would like to thank to both Mrs. Völgyes and Synergon Rt. for their generous support in helping to establish this award.

This annual award is aimed to recognize those individuals who have played an outstanding and exemplary role in developing Hungarian-American business relations over the past years. 


Those persons can be nominated who have contributed significantly to the development of the Hungarian-American business relations in the following, but not exclusive, areas of US investment such as through FDI or technology or knowledge or charity.

Dr. Iván Völgyes was a man credited by many as being the father of modern lobbying in Hungary. Born in Hungary, he moved to the United States in 1956, where, after acquiring a BA, MA and PhD in International Politics, he worked on John F. Kennedy's election campaign in 1959 and then followed him into the White House. After the fall of the iron curtain, he became instrumental in bringing numerous U.S. based businesses to Hungary including the Gallup Organization and Reader's Digest.

As the chief advisor to General Electric in Hungary, Völgyes also assisted in bringing six of GE's 10 global core businesses, along with more than $1 billion in investment. Dr. Iván Völgyes lost his life in an airplane crash in June 2001.

Eszter Szabó, GE’s corporate communications and public affairs regional leader for CEE and AmCham board member between 2010-2014, knew him – she recalls their meeting in 1996 on her first day at GE. “He was the highly influential national advisor of GE in Hungary, and I was the freshly appointed communications leader, Central Europe at GE Lighting […].  After that I worked with  Völgyes closely making GE a multi business investor in Hungary with other visionary Lighting executives also  involved. Five years later  I received a phone call from the Office of the Minister of Interior to tell me that Iván, who had left GE by that time, was involved in a plane crash.[…] He was an intercultural interpreter (as he usually referred to himself), the designer and an implementer of the common growth vision of global GE and Hungary, a truly high-impact advisor of the company.”

Recipients of this prestigious award are

(For detailed information on the recipients please scroll down)

2005 - Péter Hegedűs
2006 - Lajos Sápi
2007  - Ambassador András Simonyi
2008 - Thomas Ramsey, Consul General 
2009 - László Czirják
2010 - István Gyarmati
2011 - Marcel Szabó
2012 - Charles Huebner 
2013 - Robert Peaslee 
2014 - Gábor Garai 
2015 - László Metzing (posthumuos)
2016 - Ambassadors Colleen Bell and Réka Szemerkényi 

Nomination and voting process

Only AmCham members in good standing can nominate an individual for this award. Each candidate should have at least three supporters from the AmCham membership in order to qualify. Each nomination should be accompanied by a maximum one page summary describing the achievements of the proposed individual.

Applications will be reviewed individually and voted on by the AmCham Board through a secret ballot.

1., Péter Hegedűs

Mr. Hegedüs was the ABB Group Representative for Hungary and President of ABB Kft. Before joining ABB Mr. Hegedüs was Chief Operating officer of Gilbert Commonwealth International Incorporated, one of the largest Engineer / Architect Consulting firms in the United States.
 
Mr. Hegedüs has contributed in several ways to the American-Hungarian business relationship. As President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary between 2002-2004 he actively and successfully promoted and assisted investment and commercial relations between the two countries. He participated in numerous conferences, business forums, roundtables and seminars where he always represented American values and pursued goals mutually beneficiary for both the US and Hungary. He was many times active member of high-level government delegations to the US contributing with his experience and knowledge to the success of negotiations. Under his leadership AmCham strengthened its position as the leading representative of US and international business in Hungary.

Mr. Hegedus, as an American businessman with a first-generation Hungarian background, has always been an advocate of charity and minority issues. During his years in Hungary, he has taken a very active role in promoting issues, which he believed contributed towards the positive development of Hungary both in the business and in the social spheres.

2.,  Lajos Sápi

In the middle of the 1980’s the Hungarian Glass Works intended to introduce a state-of-the-art flat glass manufacturing process in Hungary; that was how it got in contact with Guardian Industries (Detroit, Michigan), the third largest architectural glass manufacturer of the world.

The negotiations resulted in signing the Joint Venture Agreement in July 1988 and the same year the parties establed Hunguard Float Glass Co. Ltd, a joint venture company with 51% Hungarian and 49% foreign ownership, located in Orosháza. Within some years Guardian became the 100% owner of the company. In that period only a few joint venture companies existed in Hungary, so Hunguard was among the first 3 to 5 largest producing joint ventures in the country. Guardian undertook a pioneer role by realizing a US$ 105 million project in the region among the conditions prevailing at that time.

Lajos Sápi and Guardian got acquainted in the course of the joint venture negotiations. At the time of establishing the company he was appointed as managing director of the new company and has been in this position to date.

Guardian started its new float investment in 1995 in Thalheim, Germany. Lajos Sápi was charged with the management of the project and the initial operation of the plant. As Guardian’s glass plant investment began in Czestochowa, Poland, Lajos Sápi became Director of Central and East European Operations of Guardian. In 1998 Mr.Sápi became Guardian’s  “Employee of the Year”, as the first non-American person in the several decade history of the corporation.

In 1998 he was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit of the Hungarian Republic.

3., Ambassador András Simonyi

He graduated from the Karl Marx University of Economics (now Budapest Corvinus University) in 1975. Holds a Ph.D. in political science. Wrote his thesis on Denmark’s security policy in the 20th Century. In the 8o’s he worked with different organizations in the field of youth exchange, in particular promoting East-West contacts, including programs with the American Council of Young Political Leaders.

In 1989, Joined the Foreign Ministry to work with the so-called Central European Initiative aka Pentagonale as a personal assistant to the Foreign Minister László Kovács. He also headed the Nordic department of the Ministry.

He was also Hungary’s representative to the Western European Union Council for five years. He is vice-president of the Hungarian Atlantic Council, co- founder of The Center for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy, and President of the Danish – Hungarian Friendship Society. He is also a frequent lecturer on security issues, trans-Atlantic relations, the problems of military reform, and NATO enlargement. He has published numerous articles on the accession process to NATO, trans-Atlantic relations and European security, the war on terror.This person is as widely known in Bruxelles as in America.

He is talented enough to achieve great respect not only in the White House, but in Jazz bars in New Orleans.

4., Thomas Ramsey, Consul General

After his arrival to Hungary in the summer of 2006 as Head of the Consular Section at the US Embassy Budapest, he has coordinated all matters relating to immigrant and non-immigrant visas, antifraud measures, as well as American Citizen Services.

He joined the US Department of State in 1991 and has focused on Consular issues throughout his career. His foreign posting prior to Hungary have included consular work in Taiwan, Ireland, China and Malaysia. Additionally, has served in the State Department’s Fraud Prevention headquarters in Washington D.C. and also worked on general policy coordination for New Zealand and Samoa.

He headed up bilateral negotiation efforts on the Visa Waiver Program Memorandum of Understanding with the Hungarian Government, as well as on the three major agreements required for Hungarian citizens to able to travel visa-free to the U.S.: information sharing agreements regarding terrorist activity, lost and stolen passports, and criminal activity. He was responsible for organizing the visits of several American delegations from the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department culminating with the recent visit of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who announced the November 17th start date for Hungarians to be able to travel to the U.S. without a visa for business and tourism. It has been just over a year since the U.S. Congress passed legislation making expansion of the Visa Waiver Program possible and it is no understatement to say that it is partially thanks to his tireless efforts and coordination that Hungary has so quickly negotiated and met all necessary requirements to be among the first countries to enter the new expanded Visa Waiver Program.

5., László Czirják

A long-time AmCham supporter, who is playing an outstanding and exemplary role in developing and furthering Hungarian-American business relations.   He is a U.S.-born citizen holding dual U.S. and Hungarian citizenship and has resided in Hungary since 1992. He received a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering, both with honours, from Columbia University in New York.

He is a former President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary and the current Chairman of the Corporate Governance Committee with a mission of improving the ethics of private, non-profit and public sector governance practices, in line with AmCham’s mission, to contribute to an accountable, vibrant and sustainable competitive economic environment in Hungary.

The Committee during his leadership became the most active and efficient Committee of our organization. They have published a Position Brief on Good Corporate Governance as a Pillar of Hungarian National Competitiveness in 2005 and several other position papers, recommendations in the last 6 years. The Committee has announced two Grant Programs reaching more than 12 professors and more than 500 students, organized four annual workshops on corporate governance providing an exchange of knowledge between academics and practitioners, established the Volunteer Program and published the Corporate Governance Glossary and the Committee is working on the second edition.

6., István Gyarmati

A devoted supporter of Hungarian-American relations since the early 80s. It brought him a lot of trouble for many years. First in the early 80s, when he supported the double track decision of NATO – a rather unusual position form a Hungarian diplomat those days. He was under police investigation for many years, his house and office were bugged (he found the bug in his house and framed it, It can be now seen in his office).

After the political changes in 1990 it was easier to be a friend of the United States. He was the main partner on the Warsaw Treaty side of the US delegation under Jim Woolsey (the first DCI of President Clinton), part of the negotiation that brought Hungary out of the Warsaw Treaty, the Soviet troops out of Hungary and Hungary into NATO.

In the early 90s he became friends with Iván Völgyes. Their families got together on a regular basis and he helped Iván to move his business forward, including bringing GE to Hungary. Their cooperation also extended to the promotion of Transatlantic relations in many ways, including joint conferences, etc.

He worked in the US between 2000-2003. After his return he became the founder and the first director of the International Centre for Democratic Transition, a really bipartisan institution in Hungary, which supports and promotes democratic change throughout the world. He is now working on creating its sister institution, the Tom Lantos Institute, to remember and carry on the legacy of his friend. These institutions are some of the few, which have enjoyed the full support of all democratic political parties in Hungary – as does he – and belong to the few Hungarian institutions, which have been publicly recognized and praised on several occasions both by the previous Republican and the current Democratic administration of the US, including President Bush, Secretary of State Rice and now Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

He is frequently called the “most pro-American Hungarian”, which never prevented him to be a strong critic of American policies. The best example of these positive critics was the famous open letter to President Obama by a number of Central and Eastern-European leaders, which expressed their concern that the then new Obama administration did not pay enough attention to this region, of which István was the principal author. The letter caused a lot of turbulence in Washington, but we think it is partially its achievement that the current US Administration recognized the importance of Central- and Eastern Europe and takes it much more seriously then in the first month of its existence.

7., Marcel Szabó

Marcel Szabó is an enthusiastic promoter of the Hungarian-American dialogue and cooperation.
He was teaching European Law at the San Francisco University and at Marymount College and was also the initiator and one of the founders of the Central-European Studies Program designed by the University of San Francisco and Pázmány University to introduce our region to American students.

While teaching international law in California in 2010, during a visit to the Ronald Reagan Museum and Library, he realized that the Centennial of President Reagan would be in the next year. After his return to Hungary, he suggested that a statute should be raised in Budapest to commemorate the achievements of President Reagan. As a result, a non-governmental Memorial Committee was set up and he was commissioned to organize the creation of the statute and all events related to it. He pursued a primordial organizational role in the fundraising, selection of the architect and the location, getting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation involved with the event and arranging many details for the ceremonial parliamentary session and the unveiling of the statute.

8., Charles Huebner

Charles Huebner, as an investment adviser, investment banker and the first representative of The American Hungarian Enterprise Fund has done great deal for Hungarian-American commercial relations since the change in the system in 1990.  He is also an active member and a past President of AmCham.  He has been very active as a philanthropist and fund raiser for a number of important Hungarian cultural institutions.  

Earlier in his career he worked at the United States Air Force and NASA’s Apollo program as an Officer, Project Engineer, and Manager. Later he joined the General Electric Company as a Senior Staff Executive responsible for businesses with revenues in excess of $10 billion. He has been in Hungary since 1990 when Dr. Huebner established, organized, staffed, and ran the operations of the Hungarian American Enterprise Fund (HAEF) in Budapest as the Executive Vice President and the Managing Director. Dr. Huebner received a Ph.D. from The American University in Washington, D.C. He earned an M.S. in Aero and Astronautics from M.I.T. and graduated first in his class, summa cum laude, from the University of Detroit.

9., Robert Peaslee 

Mr. Peaslee is the Senior Commercial Officer at the American Embassy in Budapest and held this position since August 2009, and has had regional oversight over the Commercial Section in Zagreb, Croatia since July 2011. Since June 2013, Mr. Peaslee has also had responsibility for the Partner Post of Slovenia.

Mr. Peaslee was previously the Regional Senior Commercial Officer at the American Embassy in Doha, Qatar, where he established the office and directed the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service programs in Qatar and in Pakistan. 

He has also served as the Regional Senior Commercial Officer in Helsinki, Finland and the Principal Commercial Officer at the American Consulate General in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Mr. Peaslee was simultaneously the Senior Commercial Officer for Pakistan (resident in Dhahran), with responsibility for overseeing Commercial Service operations in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore.  Mr. Peaslee’s first diplomatic posting was as Commercial Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Rob earned a BA in Political Science (May 1989) from Colorado State University and earned an MBA in International Management and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of New Mexico. He is fluent in Spanish, and conversant in Hungarian.  Mr. Peaslee is married with two adult children.

10., Gábor Garai

Gabor Garai is a partner and business lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP. He is chair of the firm’s Private Equity & Venture Capital Practice and co-chair of the Life Sciences Team.

Mr. Garai’s private equity and venture capital practice encompasses all legal and business aspects of structuring, financing and managing various types of investment funds; negotiating mergers, acquisitions and dispositions of portfolio companies; structuring investments in emerging companies; and participating in strategic decisions of funds and fund-owned companies.

Mr. Garai lectures and writes frequently to business-people and professionals on venture capital, private equity and mergers and acquisitions. In 2013 and 2014, Mr. Garai was selected to sit on the Law360 Private Equity Editorial Advisory Board. He recently co-edited "Buying and Selling a Privately Owned Business in Massachusetts" and "Middle Market Mergers and Acquisitions," both published by MCLE.

He graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1976, and earned a B.A. from Harvard College in 1973.

Mr. Garai is the Hungarian Consul General for New England and founder of the Hungarian-American Chamber of Commerce of New England. He received the Hungarian Civilian Cross, the highest recognition to non-residents awarded by the Hungarian president. During his work as Honorary Consul, Mr. Garai was awarded the Hungarian Order of Merit in 2005 and an award pro auxilio cirium Hungarum in 2007 to recognize his efforts for the protection of Hungarian citizens. In 2013, he was selected as honorary commercial attaché for Hungary.

11., László Metzing

Laci was called the “Rock” by many, as he was the foundation of what AmCham is today. In the 17 years he spent with the Chamber he helped build it into a great organization, with a strong and supportive staff and a vibrant membership community.

He studied Foreign Trade at the University of Economics where he met his future wife. At the beginning of his career he worked in foreign trade, later the food and cosmetics industry, and lived in the US in the early 90’s. He started working at AmCham in 1999 as Head of Administration. 

László Metzing passed away on October 23, 2015 after a short illness at the age of 58.  

His son, Árpád Metzing (picture on the left) accepted the award and said in his speech that "we are thankful to you, the AmCham community, for making AmCham a place, where my father truly loved to work, each day, every day."

12., Ambassadors Colleen Bell and Réka Szemerkényi

For the first time in the history of the award, the Board of Directors unanimously decided to award not one, but two great female leaders, Her Excellency Colleen Bell, United States Ambassador to Hungary and Her Excellency Réka Szemerkényi, Hungarian Ambassador to the United States.