Two at 'U' to be knightedBY Josh
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
"I was shocked. This is not something that comes around every day,"
Zimmerman-LeVoir said. "I mean it's really quite rare to get
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.
"The only way you can learn Spanish is by going to a Spanish speaking
country," 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
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.
"The important thing is how many students have benefited from Holly's
work in this area, so it's very exciting that the Spanish government has
recognized that," she said.
Former University professor and director of Duke University's 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 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," Phillips said.