GREAL Alumni Newsletter - May 2009

Volume 9, No. 2
May 2009

From the chair:

Dear Alums,  In these times of f inancial difficulties, we hope all our graduates are managing and even thriving. Here at GREAL, our languages are doing well despite the recession. As you can see by this newsletter, we are continuing our work. All the best to all of you,

-- Robert DiDonato Chair, GREAL

Cultures Entwined: A Symposium

"In recent decades, there has been an upsurge of Jewish culture in Germany visible in cinema, literature, and in the growth of Jewish communities ... The trend in literature and film since 1990 to foreground present relations does not necessarily stem from a desire to forget the past, but rather to gain a more nuanced understanding of a culture that was nearly destroyed in the Holocaust."

Thus was GREAL's symposium "Cultures Entwined: German-Jewish Relations, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives" introduced by Dr. Mila Ganeva. The conference, held March 1-2 on the Oxford campus, included participation by members of the Moses Mendelssohn Society ofDessau, Germany (named after a famous 18th-century Jewish-German writer and philosopher) as well as speakers from the Freie Universitat in Berlin, Marquette University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Kentucky, and Miami University (five GREAL faculty).

Miami University and GREAL have a longstanding connection to the Moses Mendelssohn Society (students in the summer Heidelberg/ Berlin/Jena program visit there every summer), and GREAL faculty took part in a conference in Dessau two years ago. This year's event was attended by Miami faculty and students and visitors from the tri-state area.

Funding to bring speakers from Germany was provided by the Max Kade Foundation and Miami's John W. Altman Fund for the Humanities.


No one has counted the number of German students David Siebenhar has taught since he came to Miami in 1968, but it seems likely to be in the thousands.  Mr. Siebenhar, a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, and Western Reserve, has seen a lot of changes:

Miami had 10,000 students in 1978; all in the College of Arts and Science had to take 14 hours of foreign language, no matter where in the sequence they started; and they were placed automatically according to how much high school foreign lan-

guage they had: those with two years started in 201, those with four years in 301. There were 30 students to a language class then, no department secretary, no office telephones, and of course no computers. However, with the entrance of desktop computers, Mr. Siebenhar  went to work in using  them for his teaching.

He and his wife Rennie will remain in Oxford (two daughters live in New York) and he plans to keep in touch. A retirement goal: attending the Oktoberfest in Munich, which in spite of many summers teaching German at Miami - Luxembourg he never got around to. Gute Reise, Herr S!

Alumni News from All Over

Constance Ditzel '75 lived and worked at National Semiconeuctor's office in Munich for three years and is now senior editor for music acquisitions at Routledge Press in New York, has two college-aged children. She'd like to hear from GREAL and Luxembourg alums: constance.ditzel@

Sean Killian '97 is now at the University of Michigan working on an M.S. in sustainable systems. Kyle Joachim '02 spent a year in Ilmenau tutoring English at the Technical University, living in Berlin for two years and working with Kurdish refugees through the Presbyterian Church . He is now a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Kristen Regina is art librarian at the Hillwood Museum in Washington, DC. This year she authored Visual Resources from Russia and Eastern Europe in the New York Public Library: A Checklist.

Dava Belloli Brown '07 completed her master's of education in math and married Josh Brown in September; their baby is due in June.

Mary Broussard is a librarian at Lycoming College, a small private liberal arts college in Williamsport, PA, married a biology professor from the same school. Lycoming has a strong German program and Mary goes to Stammtisch every Friday afternoon.

Jane Earls is on the Austrian Fulbright program in Burgenland, Austria, will return for a second year, this time in Carinthia.

Nicolette Utsinger is a school principal at Merryhill Elementary in Las Vegas, where she has lived for the last eleven years with her three daughters. Got news? Send it to us at


German has cheerleaders in all of the German faculty of GREAL but one of the cheerleaders with worldwide reach has been Dr. Robert Di Donato, professor of German and chair of GREAL, who has now been honored with a Certificate of Merit from the Goethe Institute.

Those who watch public TV may have seen Dr. Di Donato in the popular PBS program "Fokus Deutsch," of which he is the principal author. The text is a staple in German classes, high school and college, across the country. One review called it "especially innovative, one of the first to make certain that beginner German students would regularly hear German spoken by multiple voices."

Dr. Di Donato's infectious enthusiasm also translates to conference rooms, where he has given countless workshops and keynote addresses. One of the letters recommending him for this national award says, "Among my colleagues, he is known as an excited supporter of new ideas and encourages his colleagues to take on new challenges."

For the next two years, Dr. Di Donato will be taking on a new challenge: he will be the interim chair of Miami's Department of Spanish and Portuguese. He will continue to hold an appointment as Professor of German but will not teach German until his return. Dr. Margaret Ziolkowski, currently assistant chair of GREAL, will become Acting Chair in his absence.