Provost honoured with German Order of Merit
Germany’s ambassador to Canada was in Edmonton June 4 to recognize two University of Alberta administrators with two of his country’s highest honours.
Close to 100 people were in attendance June 4 to witness German ambassador to Canada Georg Witschel present Carl Amrhein, provost and vice-president (academic), with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit and present Britta Baron, vice-provost and associate vice-president (international), with the German Canadian Friendship Prize.
The German Order of Merit, known as the Bundesverdienstkreuz, is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for outstanding service to the nation, on par with the Order of Canada.
“For those who know Carl, we know him to be a person of great energy and integrity,” said U of A chancellor Linda Hughes. “His devotion to excellence in higher education and research both here in Alberta and around the world is second to none.”
Witschel said Amrhein’s work is an example of fruitful co-operation.
“For you, Dr. Amrhein, your understanding of fostering international co-operation is more than just the mobility of people and ideas and gaining knowledge. It is also building mutual understanding and respect,” said Witschel.
Amrhein’s commitment to international engagement spans more than two decades, starting at the University of Toronto, where he helped establish a Joint Initiative for German Studies.
The Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative, growing student exchanges between Alberta and German universities, a vibrant partnership between the university and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, and the German–Canadian Centre for Innovation and Research are examples of the more than two dozen partnerships Witschel credits Amrhein with fostering.
“Without your vital support, the GCCIR would not have been established. And what has been achieved up to now gives us every reason to be optimistic, when we think about its future,” Witschel said.
Chancellor emeritus Eric Newell, who was on hand for the ceremony held at the former Mactaggart residence, which was donated to the U of A in 2010, said Amrhein has tremendous ability to create environments that foster great partnerships.
“He’s action-oriented, dead set against writing long reports that just gather dust on the shelf,” Newell said. “The deans love working with Carl because he takes action and gives them the freedom to come up with their ideas. The students love him and our international partners do too. Carl has good visionary and leadership initiatives, and he knows how to reach across cultural lines. That’s a unique talent.”
Amrhein told the audience that internationalization is a need that must be met. “For Canada, Alberta, Edmonton and this institution to achieve all that it is capable of achieving, we must be deeply engaged around the world,” he said. “At the level of faculty, staff and students, and at the level of cultural understanding across the entire academy, the work continues and it will continue with increased intensity as the world becomes ever more competitive.”
In presenting Baron with her award, Witschel said she is a woman who is multi-talented, very active, dedicated and devoted. “She has accomplished, in many areas, a lot to bring science institutions, researchers and students, and others in Germany and Alberta together.”
Baron has brought to the U of A a decades-long record of connecting German institutions with foreign counterparts. She says the U of A stands unrivalled in its partnerships with Germany, which includes programs with Germany’s top two institutions.
“I can’t think of any other university, even in the U.S., let alone research-intensive universities in Canada, that would have such a commitment and at the same time be so successful in interacting with Germany on all levels, including the highest levels of government and academia,” she said.