Making an Impact: Philipp Hangartner Honors His Father’s Legacy, Funding the Peter Hangartner Fellowship

Philipp Hangartner, son of Peter Hangartner, for whom the Peter Hangartner Fellowship is named, has funded the 2020-21 prize, simultaneously honoring the memory and legacy of his father, while opening new doors for a promising student in CEU’s Department of Economics and Business. This year’s fellowship was awarded to Central European University (CEU) student Alisher Batmanov, currently in his second year of the MA program.

“The beauty of an organization like CEU is that it brings students together from all corners of the world,” says Philipp, adding, “I think you need to have that kind of input to really foster a diverse way of looking at issues and approaches. That is something I believe CEU does very well.”

The Peter Hangartner Fellowship was initiated to honor Philipp’s father Peter (1930-2013), for his significant contributors to the Open Society Foundations (OSF) as both as a trustee and a member of the Finance and Asset Management Committees. After his retirement in June 2009, the scholarship was established by the Swiss Foundation Open Society Institute to be awarded annually for ten years to the top second-year master’s degree student in economics. During the first ten years, the scholarship made such a significant impact that the Hangartner family wanted to find a way to continue it. During the disrupted year of the pandemic, Philipp opted to extend the program for 2020-21, while assessing how his support can be most beneficial going forward over a longer period.

Philipp is the Manager of SWISSFEEL, based in Zurich, which specializes in washable mattresses for the hospitality and healthcare industries. He also co-founded a new mattress laundering facility in Vienna called Matwash. He remembers his father as a pragmatic professional who was also a colleague and friend of CEU Founder, George Soros.

“You have academics and you have practitioners - the people who, for instance, grew up on the trading floor like my dad,” notes Philipp, whose father had a long career in leadership at the Zurich-based bank, Julius Baer. Philipp traces a similar “learning by doing” ethos to his Swiss education, which, he reports, encourages traditions of apprenticeship in addition to university education.

In alignment, the fellowship, by design, covers university tuition fees as well as living expenses, which foster the conditions for the recipient to focus on learning - both academically, and through practical experience in the economics field. Participation in conferences, fieldwork and internships, are made more accessible through the support of the fellowship.

Current recipient, Alisher, displays such a balance, contributing as a Research Assistant to CEU Professor Marc Kaufmann, while also addressing topics of mental health and well-being in his work. “The topics of mental health and depression, in particular, have historically not been thoroughly discussed in economics, so I view this area as a promising direction for my future research,” notes Batmanov. He attributes his interest in mental health and its implications for economics to his Kazakh origins, as Kazakhstan is a country with particularly high rates of suicide, especially among teens. Alisher intends to pursue a PhD in Economics to cultivate his skills conducting research and better contribute in these areas.

The Peter Hangartner Fellowship is a prestigious opportunity in the Department of Economics and Business, motivating competitive scholarship and performance of Master’s students. Department Head and Associate Professor Adam Zawodowski comments, “The Hangartner scholarship shows our masters students that hard work pays off, and it allows them to be able to concentrate on their future endeavors.”

Philipp has valued the opportunity to work with CEU to honor a personal family memory and also shape his contribution with an eye toward the future. He comments, “Something that I really appreciate is that I am able to interact with many people to determine for myself the best way to contribute.”

CEU is grateful to Philipp and the generous alumni and donors around the world who are coming together to provide life-changing opportunities for students. From the new Kaffeehaus Fellowships for students from Austria, to the Hungarian Access Fund established to help young people from rural Hungary achieve their educational and career ambitions, examples of the many donor-funded scholarship programs at CEU can be found here. CEU will be recognizing its donors during its first virtual Day of Thanks event, streaming on November 30.