Newsletter- Fall 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends of the Pitt German Department,

I hope that this newsletter finds you in good health and good spirits. The Pitt Department of German is forging ahead despite this year’s challenges, and I would like to update you on some of those challenges as well as our successes.

We have felt the impact of COVID at Pitt, and our hearts go out to those who have been afflicted by and in some cases succumbed to COVID, to those who have lost employment, and to the many others whose lives have been disrupted by this awful illness. Although not life-threatening, the impact for our students has brought significant changes: last spring, classes were forced online, we could not run our annual drama performance, study abroad programs were postponed, and in-person graduation was canceled. Traditional student life changed dramatically.

Despite these challenges, our students and faculty have demonstrated both resilience and creativity in recent months, especially in light of a summer of unrest and a turbulent election season. Faculty members responded nimbly in moving their courses online in the spring and then, this Fall, to a Pitt-Flex mode, a hybrid model allowing both in-person and online instruction. This required countless hours of training beyond what is typically involved in course preparation. The Department sponsored an online series of events this Fall (read more in the “Campus Weeks” article) for which students and community members turned out in large numbers. And our students continue to be engaged, whether in classes, in departmental sponsored lectures, conversation hours, or game nights, or in student run activities such as German Club—all online now. I applaud both them and our faculty for pressing forward and keeping up spirits despite the challenges that face them.

Another big change in German at Pitt came when the financial impact of COVID prompted the university to offer retirement incentives to many employees. As a result, the German Department must now say “Auf Wiedersehen” to our esteemed colleague, Clark Muenzer, who retired at the end of the summer. Clark has served in most every position in the department and in prominent positions in scholarly organizations in our field. It will be difficult to imagine German at Pitt without him. We appreciate his dedication to our department and our students and wish him well in his retirement, especially as he works on his exciting new project, the Goethe-Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts.

Despite these significant changes, Pitt in German remains strong. Read on in the newsletter to learn more about our engaged faculty (we highlight our Director of Language Studies, Prof. Viktoria Harms), our successful alumni (we talk with Eric Eissler), our successful fundraising campaign last spring, and our Campus Weeks event series this fall. We are excited for COVID restrictions to lift and look forward to meeting full-time in classrooms, staging in-person events, and sending students abroad again.

Thank you for your ongoing support for German at Pitt. Please keep in touch so that we can learn about the exciting things you have done with your German. Best way to do that? Fill out the Alumni News form and/or directly email your news to Prof. von Dirke ( who is editing this and future newsletters. And please visit our website ( to see more about what is happening in German at Pitt and ways to support the program.

I wish you a happy holiday season and hope that you stay healthy and safe.


John B. Lyon

Professor and Chair

Pitt Day of Giving

Pitt Day of Giving 2020: Danke schön!

Small German Department, Big Winner ! Danke schön! Click here for more details on how our alums helped us to come in first during  Pitt’s Day of Giving in February 2020.

Eric Eissler

Alum Profile: Eric Eissler, Class of 2009

 “Once you have learned one language, you can learn others much more quickly and easily.” If you want to learn more about this polyglot alum’s journey from German major to working now in Software Development and Web Design click here.

Faculty Profile: Dr. Viktoria Harms

German language instruction at Pitt fit for the 21st Century: Click here and learn more about how Dr. Harms turned Pitt into a Goethe Institute Testing Center for the in internationally recognized Zertifikat Deutsch als Fremdsprache.

Impressions from Berlinale 2020 by Prof. Randall Halle

The German Department at Pitt - cutting edge in film studies thanks to German Professor Randall Halle (also Director of Film and Media Studies). After first visits in 1986 and 1991, he has attended the Berlin Film Festival in February for the past 20 years. Click here to find out more.

German Campus Weeks: Building Tomorrow: Diversity in Germany Today

An annual collaborative of the German Department, the German Embassy in Washington D.C., Jewish Studies and European Studies Center goes online! Interested in finding out more about our annual German Campus Weeks click here.

Alumni Survey

We know our alumni are doing diverse and interesting things since they have left Pitt. Let us know what’s happening in your lives by using this form!