From Russian Prince to American Patriot: The Story of John Engalitcheff, Jr.
In the days leading up to the Russian Revolution, no one could have imagined the coming change – change that would turn a monarchy into the world’s largest communist state, and a Russian prince into an American patriot. John Engalitcheff’s story begins with a great escape.
When the Bolsheviks seized power in Moscow, providence allowed John’s family – the family of Prince Ivan Engalitcheff – to escape. On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution, a peasant visited their estate, delivering a warning of the monarchy’s imminent overthrow. Thankfully, this allowed the Prince and his family to flee. Within hours, Bolshevik police arrived to arrest them, only to find the estate empty. The Engalitcheffs had just escaped a death sentence.
John Engalitcheff’s legacy works to ensure that freedom stands strong against any tyranny that might rise up in its place. John Engalitcheff knew better than anyone that ideas matter, which is why he chose to strengthen the right ones.
After fighting for some time in the White Army, and even spending time in a German prison camp, Engalitcheff found his parents in Czechoslovakia and finished high school. He and his family then immigrated to the United States, settling in Baltimore sometime between 1924 and 1925. Having renounced his title along with the rest of his family, in 1925, Engalitcheff reportedly fenced the last of his family’s jewels to enroll in Johns Hopkins University. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1930.
Though his new nation was in the grip of the Great Depression, Engalitcheff’s hard work landed him a job at a refrigeration firm. Within a few years, he decided to create his own business, founding the Baltimore Air Coil Company (BAC). BAC would come to be highly successful, growing into an international firm.
When Engalitcheff enlisted in the navy during the Second World War, he closed BAC’s doors. But upon his return in 1945, Engalitcheff promptly resumed business – bringing back all of his employees. Today, BAC is “the largest manufacturer of evaporative cooling, thermal storage, and heat transfer equipment” in the world.
In 1948, John married Virginia Porter. Virginia’s two children from a previous marriage continue to recall their stepfather with fondness and admiration. Stepson Kenneth Watson once reflected on his stepfather’s legacy, “The Engalitcheffs believed in two things: curing pain and educating people.” For decades, John and Virginia Engalitcheff shared their prosperity with others, donating extensively to several charities and nonprofits over the years. The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) was one such organization.
On Nov.15, 1984, John attended a White House reception for forty key players promoting “Peace Through Strength” at the American Security Council Foundation. As President Ronald Reagan was recognizing his contribution, John collapsed – he died three days later. Though he may be gone, his influence lives on through his contributions.
Upon her death, Virginia Engalitcheff followed her husband’s wishes, leaving a sizeable donation to TFAS. The remarkable donation was shaped into the Engalitcheff Endowment – an endowment used to continue the financial stability that John and Virginia had provided over the years.
In 1993, the Board of Trustees at TFAS unanimously agreed to rename TFAS’s oldest program, the Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems, in the Engalitcheffs’ honor. The Engalitcheff Endowment was also used to start the American Institute on Political and Economic Systems in Prague, the first of several international programs to be developed by TFAS.
Though he did not live to see the fall of Communism – the end of the ideology that had forced him to flee his childhood home – John Engalitcheff’s legacy works to ensure that freedom stands strong against any tyranny that might rise up in its place. John Engalitcheff knew better than anyone that ideas matter, which is why he chose to strengthen the right ones.