NET Brings the World to Traveling Educators
Robert and Maxine Fiala took the first of what would be dozens of international adventures in 1965, boarding a plane from Detroit to London. They went on to Germany, purchased a VW and toured Europe, eventually shipping the car back to the United States.
Robert, a world history professor, retired in 2004 after 40 years at Concordia University. Maxine retired in 2005 after 40 years as a kindergarten teacher at St. John's School. Both institutions are in Seward, Nebraska. The Fialas found travel to be a gateway to learning about people, culture, music, the arts, architecture and of course, history. They traveled together or independently, depending on the destination or purpose. Robert often taught in places like Taiwan, Beijing and London or led study tours for Concordia. Travel was a way for Robert to enhance his teaching and research, and travel allowed him to exercise his passion for photography. He has nearly 45,000 slides from his visits to more than 60 countries.
He particularly focused his lens on Asian architecture; a number of images have been published and he contributes to a website focused on Asian architecture. The Fialas' lovely 104-year-old home in Seward is filled with Asian and European art, collected on those foreign journeys.
Robert has visited both China and Russia 15 times. "I believe I am the only person in Seward to have twice traveled on the Trans-Siberian Railway," he says, with a twinkle in his eye. "I may be the only person in Seward to have been on it once."
A bit of ill health has curtailed the Fialas' travel plans recently. But the pair remains engaged through avid enjoyment of programming on NET Television and Radio.
"I can't make music, but I love to listen to classical music," says Robert of NET Radio. Most important to him is news from National Public Radio and from PBS NewsHour on NET Television. These are important sources of neutral and thoughtful reporting, he says. "I think NewsHour is just fantastic. It's one of the greatest contributions that public television has made to our culture."
He also enjoys travel shows, NOVA and anything by filmmaker Ken Burns ("he's uniformly great," Robert says).
Maxine enjoyed using children's programming like Sesame Street when she was teaching; now she enjoys watching the shows due to their messages of kindness and charity.
The Fialas have chosen to leave a significant estate gift to NET, which makes them members of the Friends of the Future Society. NET thanks Robert and Maxine for their generosity and interest in NET.
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