The city of Jyväskylä was founded in 1837 by decree of Czar Nicholas I. The city center was built between Lake Jyväsjärvi and the Harju Ridge, pretty much where it is located right now. Finland’s first Finnish-language teaching college was established in Jyväskylä in 1863 and students have been annoying local residents ever since.
In 1967 Pamela Anderson was born, John Coltrane passed away, Biafra declared itself independent from Nigeria, and Prince Bertil of Sweden visited Finland for five days. During the same year, the teaching college became the University of Jyväskylä.
We can ultimately thank Uno Cygnaeus for the educational institution that we have today. A product of the Universities of Turku and Helsinki, Cygnaeus was also an ordained Lutheran minister. He served in Viipuri as a prison chaplain before accepting a post in Sitka, Alaska – located in the far eastern reaches of the Russian Empire. Five years later he transferred to a position in St. Petersburg. In 1858 the Russian senate assigned him to the task of researching the educational systems of Europe. After receiving his report, the senate presented him with the opportunity to write up a proposal for the establishment of general education in the Grand Duchy of Finland. As a result of his proposal, a law was passed in 1866 calling for the establishment of a school system in Finland as well as for the development of universities at which teachers for these schools could be trained. Perhaps the most important contribution Cygnaeus made to Finnish education was his advocating for the separation of the church from the schools. Responsibility for education was transferred from the Lutheran church to the Finnish public school system.
If you leave campus on Kauppaka-tu towards downtown you will run into the intersection of Cygnaeuksenkatu after of couple of blocks. Take a right and walk down the hill towards Vapaudenkatu. Across from the city library, on the right-hand side of the street, you will find a little park named after Uno Cygnaeus. You’ll know you are there when you see his statue, which was put up in 1900. The park isn’t that peaceful these days with the construction of the “Karisma block” next door but it’s a nice little green space with benches and grass and trees that is worth checking out. Every now and then you might notice flowers or wreathes at the base of Uno’s pedestal, left by grateful pilgrims wanting to show their appreciation for his contributions to the educational system that brought Finland to where it is today.