Antonio Horvath-Kiss

National Senator
Republic of Chile
MSCE '84

[Antonio Horvath-Kiss]

For his outstanding contributions as a civil engineer and public servant, and for his humanitarian accomplishments, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Antonio Horvath-Kiss.

On the artistry of engineering

I was born in Santiago, the capital of Chile. At the age of 17 I had to decide what to study, because I wanted to become an engineer, a physician, or an artist. It was not an easy decision, but I am convinced that through engineering it is possible to match social and artistic motivation. While I was studying engineering at the University of Chile, I also worked towards a fine arts degree. At Purdue, I studied advanced engineering, environmental management, and landscape design. I also had the opportunity to be in contact with people who, apart from being engineers, were involved in science and artistic matters. The principal issue at Purdue was how to compromise environmental aspects and aesthetics in engineering, solve social problems, and deal with people and authorities that don't always share your same vision. Strict professors, like Kumares Sinha, combined their knowledge with a moral and spiritual level to influence me to create and think for myself.

On his career

In school, I imagined my career would be involved in attractive projects with significant social results and in areas of difficult access, or where human settlement could be made possible. This problem would have important environmental, economic, and aesthetic aspects and challenges. I was in for a lot of surprises. When I came back to Chile, I had problems with some of the authorities of the Public Works Ministry. They relocated me from the place I lived in the Patagonia (a place of pure nature with many challenges) to Santiago against my wishes. I designed my own way to return. Engineers work around different ways and means in order to define perspectives and attain their goals. Purdue taught me that.

Apart from my job in Santiago, I started to work in projects for the austral colonization, in a project called "Chile Futuro," which was created in 1984 to face long-term prospective projects. I also worked in the Planning Ministry. As a consultant I could make new explorations, build highways, and develop projects all over the country. I began proposing and working for public and private projects to develop a model to evaluate new roads through stage construction. After two years I came back to the Patagonia as Regional Secretary of the Public Works Ministry. Three years passed and I was elected to a four-year’s tenure in the National House of Representatives, and after that elected a Senator.

I live now half of the time in Valparaiso, close to the Congress, and the other half in Coyhaique. As an independent, with no political party, I work in a non-governmental organization in the southern territory. We manage schools, television stations, and hydroelectric power plants, as well as projects of forestry plantation, recovery of the river navigability and a variety of social, economic, and environmental challenges. We also have special projects for training, and have started working on important agreements with international agencies from Great Britain, Switzerland, and Germany.

On cultivating change

In Chile, we have a system of volunteer professionals to help people. Two years ago I inherited the legacy of a very special Catholic missionary priest, Antonio Ronchi, who encouraged the development of the most poor and isolated people. He influenced my career and thus my life as did Mr. Augusto Grosse, who explored the Patagonia between 1932 and 1965. As a Senator I am involved in special groups. We created a group named "The Federals," because our country is too centralized. Another group is "The Greens," a non-political-party group involved in environmental problems.

We are trying to create a law to coordinate the territorial planning, related to environmental issues. In our country, too many laws and rules and public institutions result in excessive bureaucracy and external costs, so private initiatives are negatively affected. The Chilean Patagonia is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It has to be developed in order to increase its population without affecting its magic and special ecological condition. The same thing happens in other parts of Chile—at least 50 percent of our territory, in continental South America plus our Antarctic region and Eastern Island—and other parts of the world. We need to have a good and harmonious planet with urban, rural, and natural well-developed and protected areas.

1994– :
National Senator, Republic of Chile
Member, House of Deputies (Chile)
Regional Secretary, Ministry of Public Works (Chile)
Ministry of Public Works, National Highway Project (Chile)
Regional Director, Highway Agency (Aisan, Chile)
Engineer, Ministry of Public Works (Chile)

BFA '73, BSCE '74, University of Chile; MSCE '84, Purdue University