Electric power is returning throughout Charlotte in the aftermath of last week’s ice storm, but if Duke Power should need a hand, a rather well-known electrician is coming into town.

Lech Walesa, the Polish labor leader who led the Solidarity movement that brought down communism in that country, starting a domino effect for freedom throughout Eastern Europe, will be in Charlotte this week to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from UNC Charlotte. Before helping to bring democracy to Poland and being elected its first president, he was an electrician working at the shipyards in Gdansk. He has also received numerous other awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

Walesa served as president of Poland from 1990-1995 and is now the patron of the Lech Walesa Institute, a foundation dedicated to advancing the ideals of democracy and free market reform throughout Eastern Europe. This past May, he was named to the board of directors of NuTech Solutions, a Charlotte-based company specializing in profit optimization software for Fortune 500 firms.

University connections

NuTech was founded in 1999 by two Polish immigrants, Zbigniew Michalewicz and his son Matthew, who both have strong ties to UNC Charlotte. The elder man — who heads up the firm’s technology development — was chair of the Computer Science Department there, while Matthew graduated with a business degree from the university and was recently named an outstanding alumnus. Matthew is also on the board of the university’s newly-formed Charlotte Research Institute.

Walesa credits the use of technology — especially as a communications tool — with helping bring down communism. He has told reporters in previously published articles that he uses a PC and a laptop, as well as a Palm Pilot, and often joins in Polish-based Internet chat rooms that discuss politics. He has also said he joined NuTech because of the potential impact of its technologies.

Walesa will be presented with his honorary degree at UNC Charlotte’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14.