We graduated in spring 1955
As the majority of us were able to complete our studies in the minimum time, we walked to the banquet hall as a long double file for the distribution of certificates at the end of May. In the evening, we celebrated the completion of our studies at the KY’s club facilities. This is where the host of both the class and KY, Pekka Korpinen, suggested that we would convene once every five years. So, we have met every five years to reminisce how Antero Partanen’s Rafla Radio would broadcast news during every recess, how we would cover up for each other in roll calls, establish student companies on the proposal of Sales and Advertising Studies Lecturer Arvo Puukari, and all the fun we had in KY’s numerous club events. The class meeting in 1975 was particularly memorable because the parquet floor the Rafla Restaurant had been refurbished. We were only allowed to dance without shoes. But we did not have to worry as Olavi Niemi, Marketing Director at textile company Hyvon, brought white cotton socks to everyone.
Employment or further studies
At the time, Bachelor of Economics was a basic degree. It offered versatile opportunities, especially for men. Women were still mainly thought to be suitable for the duties of a secretary or a multi-lingual correspondent. When occupations were presented in the second year of studies, two economists were managing directors, while a female economist acted as a correspondent. There were no other examples.
In 1955, it was easy to find employment. As the payment of war reparations had been completed in autumn 1952 when Vartiainen’s studies began, all of Finland’s export revenue could finally be used for the benefit of the national economy. However, the currency shortage was still severe. The Foreign Trade Licence Office issued import licences four times a year. Vartiainen tells that she managed import transactions at an international company and often had to request an extension for the validity of offers in various languages as the required import licence had not yet been obtained. Offers were often requested as proforma invoices in order to present the exact amount of currency required to the Foreign Trade Licence Office.
Fifteen students of the class continued their studies after graduation. These included Eero Artto, Veijo Riistama and Eero Pitkänen, who later completed doctoral dissertations and acted as professors at the School of Business, as well as Veikko Jääskeläinen who, in addition to receiving a doctorate and acting as a professor, became the school’s rector.
Vartiainen, too, started to study towards a master’s degree alongside employment. Studying was lonely. Vartiainen recalls that there was only one basic lecture course held by Master of Economics Leo Ahlstedt who acted as assistant on the course Business Economics II. There was no business literature in Finnish, so the books were in Swedish, German, English, Norwegian and Danish.
Solemn conferment ceremony in 1961
The conferment ceremony of 1961 and the 50th anniversary celebration of the School of Economics were highlighted in various newspapers. A newsflash video was recorded on the balcony for the evening news. The Bearer of the Golden Staff cantata composed by Finnish composer and academic Uuno Klami was played for the first time. Klami attended the ceremony personally. He died a couple of weeks afterwards.
Fifty years later, at the 2011 conferment ceremony, Vartiainen was awarded the title of Jubilee Master (which can be granted to persons who received their degree 50 years ago). The ceremony reminded her of the Finnish folk dance franseesi practice that took place 50 years ago. This time, she watched the franseesi performance at Hotel Kalastajatorppa, after which she was asked to dance other traditional dances by a young Doctor of Science (Econ & BusAdmin), and another young Doctor of Science sang her a serenade. As usual, the rest of the evening was spent at the KY’s premises listening to more modern rhythms.
Today, Vartiainen is delighted by the fact that younger women who study at the School of Business can take it for granted that they will go far in business life. In her youth, there were no mentors to provide guidance in studies or work.
Onerva Vartiainen was interviewed by Terhi Ollikainen and this article is a summary of the Finnish interview.