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$1 Million Faculty Gift Supports Graduate Students

by on November 01, 2012 2:13 PM

A dedicated teacher and scholar, Dr. Gerhard Friedrich Strasser, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at Penn State, has made a $1 million commitment in his estate to support graduate students in comparative literature and Germanic and Slavic languages and literatures.

The gift is one of the largest ever made by a current or emeritus faculty member in the College of the Liberal Arts and designates the proceeds from the future sale of real estate for support of graduate education in the Departments of Comparative Literatures and Germanic and Slavic languages and literatures.

“I am very grateful for Gerhard’s generosity, which will help attract the best graduate students to our college — students who, in turn, will become great teachers and scholars and contribute to their communities,” said Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “During his tenure at Penn State, Gerhard was an outstanding teacher of undergraduates and a committed mentor to his graduate students. Even today in retirement, he remains active in scholarly and public activities, and he remains devoted to educating others in creative and memorable ways.”

Strasser joined Penn State in 1979 as an assistant professor of German and Comparative Literature and rose through the ranks to the title of professor. For 25 years, he achieved an impressive record of teaching and research in an unusually broad range of topics including emblematics, cryptology, historical linguistics, the history of education and seventeenth-century travel literature. He taught many undergraduate courses ranging from freshman seminars to honors courses. Gerhard also served as head of the Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures Department from 1997 to 2000. He retired in 2004 and was awarded the title of professor emeritus of German and comparative literature.

“I have spent much of my scholarly career in the Liberal Arts here, and it was clear that the college should be one of the benefactors of my estate,” Strasser said. “During my 25 years in the two departments, there certainly were hard times on campus, but the faculty like myself continued to receive support for extensive research, and this policy continues to show the results of this support today. I am paying back some of the crucial support I received early during my career at Penn State, and I hope to help future generations of graduate students, who are the core of our two departments.”

Prior to his retirement, Strasser authored two important monographs, Lingua universalis: Kryptologie und Theorie der Universalsprachen im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert (Lingua universalis: Cryptology and Theory of Universal Languages in the 16th and 17th Centuries) and Emblematik und Mnemonik der frühen Neuzeit im Zusammenspiel (The Interaction Between Emblematics and Mnemonics in the Early Modern Period).

Over the past eight years, Strasser has published extensively on the 17th-century German polymath Athanasius Kircher. In 2007, he contributed a 50-page article on “The Rise of Cryptology in the European Renaissance” to The History of Information Security: A Comprehensive Handbook. Today, Gerhard continues his research work in two of Germany’s great libraries, the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, and he continues to be a productive scholar. The College of the Liberal Arts awarded him with the 2012 Emeritus Distinction Award for significant accomplishments in research and publication after his retirement.

Strasser is a leading supporter of the current University-wide fundraising effort, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. The campaign is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.

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