Alumnus Levente “Levi” Nyitrai ’06 was born in Győr, Hungary, as the second of three children in a close-knit, Catholic family.
From the time he was 5 years old — after the fall of the Iron Curtain — to 17, Nyitrai and his siblings learned foreign languages, traveled across Western Europe and participated in study exchange programs — the last of which led him to Halstead, Kansas. There, Newman’s cross country coach Josh Schepis recruited Nyitrai to attend Newman.
“Knowing little about the American higher education system and wanting to make sure I selected the right place, my parents flew over all the way from Hungary to see the university and talk to some of my potential teachers in person,” Nyitrai said.
Two months later, Nyitrai’s Newman journey began. One of the biggest surprises he encountered was the valuable, “rich international outlook” the university, its students and professors had to offer.
“With South East Asian students, I had my first ever authentic Nepali dinner (which I strictly had to eat with hand) and learned more about Hinduism. I visited Bulgaria at the invitation of a lovely fellow student from there, Dimitar, who showed me around the country. My first supervisor at the then Newman bookstore was Polish, while my boss at the gym was from the UK.”
Nyitrai also recalled having elaborate conversations on Italian culture with history professor Cheryl Golden, Ph.D., the Vietnamese political system with the late Randall Austin, Ph.D., and Latin American societies with Spanish professor Sonja Bontrager.
“Newman had a profoundly positive influence on me and, without any exaggeration, it certainly has a special place in my heart,” he said.
Today, Nyitrai works as the foreign policy and cyber attaché of the British Embassy in Budapest, where he helps the British ambassador and actively aids the relationship building between Hungary and the UK.
He has earned several awards, including recognition for performance at the International Model United Nations competitions from the London School of Economics, the British Civil Service Award for his work at the British Embassy and others for civic and charity activities.
In June 2023, Nyitrai was knighted by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta — a Catholic lay religious order that is more than 900 years old. He traveled to Lourdes, France, and cared for sick pilgrims as part of his service preparation for the honor and described the experience as “humbling and uplifting.”
Seventeen years have passed since Nyitrai graduated from Newman, but he continues to give back and connect with the university however he can.
When Newman students traveled on a Europe by Rail trip a few years ago, Professor Kelly McFall, Ph.D. connected with Nyitrai, who gave the students a tour of Budapest and shared discussions about Hungarian and Central European history and culture. Then, during the 2022 Kansas Association of Historians conference at Newman, Nyitrai was part of a virtual roundtable discussion on the Ukraine War, refugee issues, Hungary and the overall European perspective on this military crisis.
“Sharing the stage with some of my former teachers from whom I had learned so much was truly unique.”
Nyitrai believes that being open and culturally sensitive can “build bridges, deepen mutual acceptance and widen our horizon,” he said. He will always be grateful for the education, experiences and ever-growing global perspective he received from Newman.