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The German Studies Association organized a “Jonathan Hess Memorial Roundtable” at its forty-second annual conference held in Pittsburgh between September 27 and September 30. More than a hundred people, including many of Professor Hess’s former doctoral students as well as colleagues from around the nation, came to honor and remember him and recalled together the impact he had on their professional and personal lives.

Professor Eric Downing, Interim Chair in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, held one of four prepared eulogies in honor of Professor Hess. “The GSA event was very moving,” Professor Downing explained in an interview. “There were lots of stories, tears and laughter. It was wonderful how so many of his former students and colleagues, and also present ones, came and spoke, and so many others whose lives he touched. I didn’t sleep for several days afterwards—but I’m so glad we had a chance to bring together so many of those in the field who needed to come together and share.” Joshua Shelly, a current Carolina-Duke graduate student who was one of Professor Hess’s doctoral students, was also in attendance: “Seeing the impact Jonathan had on so many people — former teachers, students, colleagues, and even his doctoral advisor — was quite emotional.”

Following the prepared presentations by Professor Downing, Professor Liliane Weissberg, Professor Hess’s doctoral advisor from the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Martha Helfer (Rutgers University), and Professor Skolnik (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), members of the audience were invited to share their own memories. Joshua Shelly recalled just some of these many memories. “Together, we told stories about our time with Jonathan and fondly recalled his wit and humor, his kindness towards us, and his joie de vivre,” he said. “I personally shared how gracious Jonathan was with his time. He was always willing to meet and provide feedback and encouragement.  For me, this extended until the final day of his life when I met with him for the last time.”

The German Studies Association was founded in 1976 and is comprised of a group of international scholars focused on German, Austrian, and Swiss history, literature, cultural studies, political science, and economics. The GSA also promotes research and study of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Professor Jonathan Skolnik and Professor Leslie Morris (University of Minnesota) organized the roundtable.

Current faculty and graduate students who attended the conference that weekend are listed below. Many former faculty and graduate students, especially Professor Hess’s many doctoral advisees, were also in attendance:

Current Faculty:

Inga Pollmann

Richard Langston

Gabriel Trop

Tin Wegel

Eric Downing

Ruth von Bernuth


Current Duke German faculty:

Stefani Engelstein

Kata Gellen


Current Graduate Students:

Joshua Shelly

Jeffrey Hertel

Emma Goehler

Christoph Schmitz

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