U’s Austrian center staff earn medals

by Cati Vanden Breul

The Austrian government recently awarded two University professors and a retired staff member with medals of honor for their contribution to the University’s Center for Austrian Studies.

University professors David Good and Gerhard Weiss were honored for their work in the center, which is part of the College of Liberal Arts. Barbara Krauss-Christensen, retired executive secretary of the center, also received a medal for her 26 years of service.

Center Director Gary Cohen suggested to Austrian Consul General Elisabeth Kehrer that the Austrian government give Krauss-Christensen a medal of honor when she retired.

“She was the heart and soul of the center for over 20 years,” Cohen said of Krauss-Christensen.

Kehrer nominated Krauss-Christensen, Good and Weiss to receive medals of honor.

“These are all people who have given outstanding service to the center and the University of Minnesota,” Cohen said.

The center, created after the Austrian government awarded the University a $1 million endowment in recognition of the U.S. Bicentennial, is one-of-a-kind in the United States, said Good, who was the director from 1990 to1996.

Cohen said the center supports the study of Austria and its neighboring countries, which were all part of the former Austrian empire.

Good said he believes Austria is important to study because of its ties to the Eastern European bloc.

Since the Cold War ended, there really is no longer an East-West divide in Europe, Good said.

“Austria is a natural jumping-off point to look at new Europe.”

The center holds lectures and conferences on campus, publishes a biannual newsletter and produces The Austrian History Yearbook each year.

The yearbook is a collection of articles that people involved in Austrian studies wrote. The center holds an international competition and chooses which articles to print.

When funds are available, grants are given to graduate students who wish to study in Austria or do Austrian research, Cohen said.

The awards came as a pleasant surprise to the recipients, they said.

Krauss-Christensen said she was surprised she was nominated and it was a great honor to be recognized.

Good said, “I was totally shocked and very honored to receive the award.”

Good specialized in Austrian studies and met his wife in Austria.

“I wanted to give back to Austria what they have given to me,” he said.