YPSILANTI—The Federal President of Germany, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, awarded Eastern Michigan University German professor Carla Damiano the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, also known as the Order of Merit. This is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation. The Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany Chicago, Wolfgang Moessinger, honored Damiano on behalf of Steinmeier during a Ceremony of Bestowal on EMU’s campus on Friday, Sept. 29.
The Order of Merit is the only honour that may be awarded in all fields of endeavor and it may be awarded to Germans as well as foreigners for achievements in the political, economic, social or intellectual realm and for all kinds of outstanding services to the nation in the field of social, charitable or philanthropic work. Damiano is being honored for her commitment to furthering the German language and literature in the United States, supporting German students, and the active role she plays in academic exchange and keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.
Professor Vesna Kondric-Horvat of Slovenia, a visiting professor in the German program in fall semester 2019, and Valentyna Stadnik, a current German Language & Literature major, emceed the event. EMU’s President Smith served as the first speaker, offering congratulations to Carla for her hard work and commending her for her achievements, before Consul General Wolfgang Mössinger offered remarks.
Mössinger explained the significance of the honor both culturally and historically, and commented that the time is ripe in the world and, more specifically, in Southeast Michigan for students with proficiency in German language and culture to get an edge on jobs, especially in the industries of science, engineering, and technology. The General Consul offered congratulations on behalf of Germany’s President Steinmeier, and proceeded with the ceremonial pinning of the cross on Professor Damiano.
“It is hard to describe what this honor means to me. It is so big, and I don’t think I have fully grasped it,” said Damiano. “I am indebted to those who nominated me, and to all those who have helped me and supported me along my career path.”
“I am deeply honored to receive this lifetime achievement award, and while the ceremony was truly the highlight of my life and career to this day, I believe the current focus should be the potential impact of this award for the university as a whole, for the Department of World Languages, and particularly for all students, present and future, in the German program,” Damiano added. “Because of the pandemic, maintaining close contacts is difficult. This award and the ceremony it generated facilitated the reestablishment of many connections, and provided me the opportunity to make new connections as well.”
As typical for a Ceremony of Bestowal, Professor Damiano gave a short acceptance speech, which explained the “strokes of fate” in her life that led up to the stated reasons for which she received this prestigious honor. Damiano’s words were followed by a laudation by EMU Professor Martin Shichtman, director of Jewish Studies, who essentially compared Damiano’s achievements and work with students to the original calling of a professor at the oldest German universities during the Middle Ages.
To close out the ceremony, a current exchange student from Justus Liebig University, Simeon Knoess, read a congratulatory testimonial by EMU’s honorary Professor of German, Professor Sascha Feuchert of Justus Liebig University, who, unfortunately, was not able to attend the ceremony. Professors Feuchert and Damiano have collaborated on projects since 2006. Together, they initiated the exchange between the Justus Liebig University and EMU, co-established a literary society for German author Walter Kempowski, and co-authored a major reference work on Kempowski.
Professor Damiano received a Ph.D. in German at the University of Oregon in 1998 and has been teaching at EMU since 2001. She was chosen by faculty and students to receive the Ronald Collins Distinguished Faculty Teacher Award in 2005 and is the author of two books on German author Walter Kempowski. On her sabbatical in 2009/2010, she conducted research in Berlin for a co-edited book project on German author Walter Kempowski with Prof. Sascha Feuchert, Justus Liebig University, Gießen, Germany, and Dr. Andreas Grünes, Universität Koblenz-Landau, Mainz, Germany. The book, Walter Kempowski: Leben-Werk-Wirkung, was published in 2020.. She has been the EMU campus Fulbright adviser for both students and faculty since 2006. Her research interests include post-1945 German literature, Walter Kempowski's life works, memory studies and the teaching of the Holocaust, and international Jewish women's writing.
For more information on the EMU World Language programs, visit the department homepage.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 15,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.