Having a Ball for Students Deutsche Bahn helps sponsor the New York Quadrille Extravaganza - By Walter Pfaeffle
Deutsche Bahn AG's CEO Hartmut Mehdorn has joined other blue chip corporations as a sponsor of the Quadrille Ball, an annual philanthropic event to benefit international education.
I am pleased to announce that Deutsche Bahn will join Quadrille Ball as a sponsor for the future," Mehdorn announced to about 250 guests at January's white-tie dinner and dance.
The dinner cost $500 a plate in what Germany's First Lady Eva Luise Köhler called one of New York's major social events in a message to the ball's organizers.
Mehdorn runs a multinational company which had sales of nearly ?30 billion ($38 billion) in 2006. Noting Deutsche Bahn's growing role on the global stage - the company now has 780 offices in 152 countries - Mehdorn said their success depends on the availability of young people with academic backgrounds in other countries.
"Our strategy is based on the importance of the young generation being able to act internationally, to work and think globally, to overcome borders, cultural differences and distances," he said
Deutsche Bahn grew out of the 1994 merger of the West and East German railway systems. With approximately 220,000 employees, the company ranks among Germany's largest employers and one of the key players in the transportation business worldwide.
Mehdorn described himself as a "big believer" in the special link between Germany and the United States.
"In my professional life, I had a lot of opportunities in different business areas: in the aeronautical world, for example, and now in the transportation and logistics one," he said. "I know the importance of the American-German friendship."
Deutsche Bahn employs 10,000 people in North America and approximately 6,000 in China. "For this growing market we need internationally educated people, and I support the (Quadrille Ball's) idea to help American and German graduate students complete their academic backgrounds in other countries," Mehdorn said.
The ball was organized by the Germanistic Society of America of Columbia University and the Quadrille Committee.
Formerly known as Snow Ball, the Quadrille Ball was revived in 1961, with the financial backing of Lufthansa. Since then, other companies have joined a growing list of sponsors, including the law firm of Alston & Bird LLP, Deutsche Bank, Continental Airlines Inc, and the accounting firms of KPMG LLP and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Another supporter is the Max Kade Foundation, named after Max Kade (1882-1967), a native of Schwäbisch Hall who came to America in 1905. After a successful career as a pharmaceutical researcher, Kade turned toward philanthropy.
The ball's first honorary chairman was General Lucius Clay, the former commanding general of the U.S. Occupation Forces in Germany. The first guest of honor was His Royal Highness Louis Ferdinand von Preussen, the grandson of Wilhelm II, Germany's last emperor.
Over the span of 45 balls, approximately $3 million has been raised. This has enabled more than 600 students from both sides of the Atlantic to study in each other's countries.
The highlight of the ball each year continues to be the performance of the Quadrille, a dance which has been popular at similar balls in Europe for more than two centuries. In New York, it is performed by young people from many different countries.
The Berlin Summer Scholarship Program of Columbia University was one of the projects financed with moneys raised from the 2005 Quadrille Ball.
- Walter Pfaeffle is a German-born journalist who lives in New York.