Cristina Mazzoni, a prolific scholar of Italian language and culture, has been invested as the inaugural Wolfgang and Barbara Mieder Green & Gold Professor in Romance Languages at the University of Vermont. University leadership and special guests joined in the formal ceremony virtually on Friday, November 20, 2020.
The fund was established by Wolfgang and Barbara Mieder to recognize and support an outstanding faculty member in the Department of Romance Languages in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Green & Gold professorship conveys a measure of prestige and provides resources to allow the holder to engage in a wide range of scholarly and pedagogical pursuits, from traveling to international conferences to engaging with student research assistants. As a result, the professorship also raises UVM’s profile on the world academic stage.
The Mieders are both devoted educators. A beloved professor of German and Folklore at UVM and world-renowned scholar of proverbs, Wolfgang Mieder chaired the Department of German and Russian from 1977 to 2008 and holds the title of Distinguished University Professor. Barbara Mieder is a retired teacher of German and Latin at the high school level. She has been a volunteer for a number of important non-profit organizations in the State of Vermont, including the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont Humanities Council.
This professorship is the second endowed faculty position established by the Mieders in the College of Arts and Sciences. The first, in the Department of German and Russian, was created in 2013 and is currently held by Professor Helga Schreckenberger. The Mieders’ support of UVM spans 50 years and has touched dozens of programs across campus, benefitting 45 different gift funds. As members of the UVM Wilbur Society, they have also made estate provisions for additional philanthropic contributions to ensure support for the University in future years. The Mieders have also been active and generous contributors of their time and talent, both serving as volunteers on numerous UVM boards and committees.
“Those of us who are blessed to know Wolfgang and Barbara are not surprised by this impressive list of accomplishments, their commitment to education in the humanities, and their incredible impact on our community,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean William Falls. “We are graced by their wisdom, humility, and kindness, which for us today is summed up best by Wolfgang himself whenever he refers to this University as ‘my beloved UVM.’”
Cristina Mazzoni joined the UVM faculty in 1993 and has had a distinguished career marked with recognition in many forms on campus and beyond. She was promoted to full professor in 2005, served as department chair, and received the University Scholar Award in 2012-13 and the Dean’s Lecture Award in 2004. She has published widely in the field of Italian studies and comparative literature, with eight books and more than 45 scholarly articles and book chapters to her credit.
In addition to her research profile, she is a dedicated and adored UVM professor, teaching a range of Italian language, literature, and culture courses, as well as world literature and women’s studies classes. In topics from Italian food culture to European fairy tales to travel literature, she is known for her dynamic presentation of the material.
“No matter what the level or the format of the course, students are unanimous in their praise of a rigorous yet accessible instructor who makes the texts and cultures she teaches come alive for them in student-centered class discussion,” said Joseph Acquisto, chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Cultures. “She inspires them to become confident speakers of the Italian language and effective critical thinkers. Her students speak of her in superlatives and know that she is invested in both their personal and academic success. Simply put, she embodies the ideal of the teacher-scholar model.”
In her remarks, Mazzoni thanked the Mieders for their outstanding support, describing Wolfgang Mieder as “a man generous in every way imaginable.” She expressed gratitude to UVM for giving her a place to teach and write for nearly two decades, and for educating three of her children.
“We could describe our story at UVM as a fairytale, for I imagine that for Wolfgang as for myself there have been tests and obstacles, a few villains, and scores of helpers and magical objects (the latter mostly books, many books, including the books this professorship will help me visit in faraway libraries),” she said. “A Green & Gold Professorship in the humanities is a harbinger of hope, confirming that the examination and the teaching of words, of what words do to ourselves and others, is something worth devoting one’s life to.”
Mieder, unable to resist citing a proverb or two, echoed Mazzoni’s expression of hopefulness, calling her appointment a silver lining during the difficult time of COVID-19. He added that the 50 years in which he and Barbara have been associated with UVM have also been “lined with silver.”
“For five decades, I have worked in the sight and proximity with the most wonderful colleagues of the Romance Languages Department in the Waterman Building. Some of these dear friends have long left us, but there are always new colleagues and special friends. So it is respect, admiration, and friendship that have led to this professorship. But there’s more, namely the incredible collegiality among the professors, staff, and students in the humanities, in particular in the College of Arts and Sciences and in our—here it comes—beloved UVM at large. In short, this professorship is our payback and thanks for having brought so much happiness to our lives.”
Fundraising for the College of Arts and Sciences is a major focus for the University of Vermont Foundation, a nonprofit corporation established to secure and manage private support for the benefit of the University of Vermont. The University boasts 124 endowed chairs and professorships, and nearly two dozen of those are associated with the College of Arts and Sciences. More information about the impact of donors like the Mieders and the work of the UVM Foundation can be found at www.uvmfoundation.org.