Two at ‘U’ to be knighted

The University of Minnesota is gaining a taste of royalty this week as two staff members will be knighted. Learning abroad program director Holly Zimmerman-LeVoir and history professor Carla Phillips will receive the Order of Isabella the Catholic in Washington, D.C. Monday evening. Ambassador Jorge Dezcallar will present the award from his home on behalf of King Juan Carlos. The award, first given in 1815, is the highest honor a civilian can receive. It is presented annually to people whose services benefit Spain. âÄúI was shocked. This is not something that comes around every day,âÄù Zimmerman-LeVoir said. âÄúI mean itâÄôs really quite rare to get this.âÄù Zimmerman-LeVoir has been promoting Spain through the Learning Abroad Center for the last 25 years and helped start the study abroad program in Toledo, Spain. During her tenure, the amount of students studying abroad in Spain has increased from 34 in 1982-1983 to 165 in 2006-2007, according to the center. âÄúThe only way you can learn Spanish is by going to a Spanish speaking country,âÄù Zimmerman-LeVoir said. She said her first connection to Spain came from studying there during college. Both Zimmerman-LeVoir and Phillips work with the Program for Cultural Cooperation, which links Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports to U.S. universities. Together, they help determine who receives grants for projects that disseminate Spanish culture throughout the United States. Phillips recently returned from Spain where she is working on a sabbatical project to try to fortify remains from an expedition Spain sent to the tip of South America at the end of the 16th century. In 2005, she was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of History in Spain . She has worked at the University since 1972, primarily researching Spanish history. She has also taught a course on the history of Spain from 1500 to the present. Interim Learning Abroad Center director Martha Johnson said the center is incredibly proud, especially because the honor is by nomination. âÄúThe important thing is how many students have benefited from HollyâÄôs work in this area, so itâÄôs very exciting that the Spanish government has recognized that,âÄù she said. Former University professor and director of Duke UniversityâÄôs Center for Hispanic Studies Antonio Ramos-Gascón nominated the two and said it was time that both received the recognition they deserve. He said the king approves the honor and is very careful with who receives the award. âÄúThe fact that Holly and I are both receiving this is a recognition of the importance that the University of Minnesota has had for the spread of Spanish culture in this country,âÄù Phillips said.