Both Etel and Ernö Udvar-Hazy enjoyed happy days growing up in Budapest, Hungary. Born in 1910, Etel was the youngest of ten children, the daughter of a well-known wrought-iron manufacturer, the creator of magnificent fences, gates and balconies. Ernö, eleven years her senior, was the son of a prominent engineer who designed Budapest’s well-known chain bridge. Before deciding to venture into the textile industry, Ernö attended medical school, but his love of beautiful fabrics led him to become a prominent fabric designer and distributor in Hungary.
While the newlyweds were honeymooning in Austria in July 1934, the vice-premier of Austria was assassinated by Austrian Nazis, a precursor to the beginning of World War II. During World War II, the Nazi-controlled government confiscated the Udvar-Hazy textile warehouse. Because it was not allowed for a man to own a business without joining the communist party, the couple restarted the business under Etel’s name.
During those terrible war years, the Udvar-Hazy’s hid many persecuted Jewish and Christian friends, at the same time vowing to leave Europe as soon as possible. They held fast to their dream of being able to raise their sons, Andrew (born in 1941) and Steven (born in 1946) in a place where they could enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty. Instilling in their sons these precious values, Etel and Ernö often spoke of the day when their family would live in the great land of America.
But their escape was not easy. Ernö, who had been a Hungarian army officer, spent ten long years painstakingly preparing an escape plan. Finally, in 1958, with only a few pieces of luggage and under the guise of departing for a week’s vacation, the family boarded a plane for Stockholm, Sweden. Leaving all else behind, the little family flew off into the future of their dreams.
Several months later, the Udvar-Hazys found themselves in New York City, enjoying the sweet taste of freedom, but with little else. The years had also taken their toll; Ernö’s crippling rheumatoid arthritis drained his energy, but Etel bravely kept the family together. She tended Ernö and their teenage sons, while also working for famous Broadway designers.
The boys thrived on their new life in America and studied hard. When Andrew received a full chemistry scholarship to UCLA, the family moved to Los Angeles. Andrew eventually received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and served as Dean of Chemistry at UCLA. Today he is one of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s top scientists.
Steven’s achievements are no less impressive. His love of aviation led to his starting a commuter airline, Astro Air, when he was only 19. He was both a student and an instructor at UCLA, earning a degree in economics and international business while teaching graduate courses in airline management. In 1973 he and two partners started the International Lease Finance Corporation, which eventually grew into the world’s premier commercial aircraft leasing company.
Ernö Udvar-Hazy never lived to witness the great success of his sons. He passed away in 1969, but his legacy lives on. He will long be remembered for his remarkable courage and foresight, his great talent, and his love for his family and adopted country. The dream he shared with Etel has become a reality.
This building is dedicated to ERNÖ and ETEL UDVAR-HAZY in honor of their love of family, freedom, and education, and their never-dying hope for a brighter day to come.
Udvar-Hazy School of Business, dedicated on March 28, 1996