CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 8, 2014 – Dr. Dieter Jedan, professor and chair emeritus of Global Cultures and Languages at Southeast Missouri State University, recently was knighted with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Consul General Herbert Quelle presented the award Nov. 11 on behalf of Federal President Joachim Gauck at a ceremony at the Chicago Consulate. Only one other person in the Consulate’s 18-state territory received this high honor.
Established in 1951, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany is the highest honor the Federal Republic of Germany awards to recipients for political, economic, social and spiritual service.
“I was nominated for this high honor a little over two years ago, and I never expected that this would go any further than the nomination,” said Jedan. “I am, indeed, humbled and honored by this high award.”
Dr. Frank Barrios, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of psychology at Southeast, said, “Dr. Jedan has devoted considerable time and effort in promoting the greater understanding and appreciation of German culture among the students and faculty of Southeast Missouri State University and among the general population of the southeast Missouri region over the past twenty years.”
Jedan was born in Weruschau, Upper Silesia. He lost his father in World War II, and became a political refugee in West Germany during the Cold War. He studied at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and since then has been involved in international education.
“I always appreciated and valued this opportunity to study in the U.S. and considered this a very special gift, one that has impacted all facets of my own life, said Jedan.
“It is because of the opportunity to study here that I realized that giving others these same opportunities and tools — that would make life better; this fact inspired me to give my very best of my time and talents to education inside and outside the classroom. Through international involvement, I hoped that students would succeed, and ultimately the world would be a better place for everyone.”
Jedan has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scholarships to support international education. He served at Southeast from 1993 to 2013.
Recently, Jedan has worked on reviving ties between Altenburg, Missouri and Altenburg, Thuringia as well as supporting the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg, Missouri, through a variety of endeavors. He is active in Rotary International and the Elks Lodge Fraternal Organization.
“While I may have ended my teaching and administrative careers at Southeast, I see this as a time of moving forward to other new opportunities and challenges, such as volunteering for the Red Cross, continuing to raise funds for the Altenburg Museum, and for the Tricentennial Foundation, among others,” said Jedan. “Retirement is not a time for sitting back but rather moving forward in new directions.
“What also needs to be said, however, is, that such an award is never earned by one individual alone; what we may not readily see in this award are the many organizations and people who supported me and were actively involved in many of these endeavors, especially the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau, the University and its staff, the volunteers of the Perry County Historical Society, the Tricentennial Foundation, and last but definitely not least, my three daughters and my family. Also, I would like to say that I am truly lucky to live in a city that has so many selfless volunteers and a country that encourages this kind of selfless engagement to make the world a better place,” said Jedan.