CLA receives $5 million to support German, European studies education and research

December 13, 2017
Hella Mears

Hella Mears, image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

The University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA) has received a $5 million gift from the estate of Hella Lindemeyer Mears. Born in Germany, Mears was a St. Paul, Minnesota philanthropist with a passion for research and education in German and European studies in Minnesota. The gift will provide research, educational and outreach opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students and support faculty research in the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch as well as the Center for German and European Studies.

“Hella Lindemeyer Mears was an enthusiastic supporter of liberal arts education in Minnesota—specifically the education, research and outreach activities of German and European studies,” said John Coleman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We look forward to honoring her legacy by using her very generous gift to support rigorous research and educational programs for faculty and students to tackle some of the most challenging questions confronting Germany and Europe, now and long into the future.”

Hella Lindemeyer Mears was born in Velbert, Germany in 1930, living through the Second World War and post-war Germany. She attended Heidelberg University, graduating in 1956 and then immigrated to the United States. She enrolled at the U of M, focusing on graduate courses in American Studies, and while on campus developed a fondness for the University’s education in German studies.

In 2002 and 2007, Mears sought to advance graduate student research in the Department for German, Scandinavian and Dutch, and the Center for German and European Studies. With significant financial gifts to both units, she created two funds to support fellowships for Ph.D. candidates with a passion in either German or European studies, including language, literature, theater or philosophy. The recent contribution of $5 million gift from Mears’ estate will continue the funding of those fellowships in perpetuity.

The $5 million gift will also support the creation of two new funds to support the research, education and outreach programs in German studies—one fund for the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch and the other for the Center for German and European Studies.

“The original gift that created the Mears Fellowships launched an innovative approach to graduate education in German studies that profoundly connected the department with the wider community—making evident the impact humanities work can have in the world,” said Professor Charlotte Melin, chair of the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch. “The gift we have now received will continue that visionary legacy. In addition, through the establishment of the new Hella Lindemeyer Mears fund, future initiatives in undergraduate and graduate studies as well as other outreach efforts will be supported. The ripple effect of this transformative gift is enormous.”

The funding will be used to strengthen German studies through undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, research initiatives and study abroad opportunities, as well as initiatives that deepen campus-community connections like the College in the Schools German program.

The College in the Schools German program began in the mid-1980s. Thanks to Mears’ initial gift in 2002, more than 30 graduate student fellows have participated in the program—each spending 50 hours per semester completing outreach activities, which include visiting Minnesota high schools, working with students and meeting with teachers to share insights from their latest knowledge and research. More than 5,000 Minnesota high school students from 24 different schools across the state have participated in the University’s College in the Schools German program.

In the Center for German and European Studies—which educates the next generation of specialists in the interdisciplinary study of Germany and Europe—the new funding from the estate of Hella Lindemeyer Mears will support a wide range of research initiatives for faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate students in the pursuit of both German studies as well as European studies. It will also create new opportunities for students to study and hold internships abroad.

“Mrs. Mears was a long-standing supporter of the liberal arts,” said Professor James Parente, director of the College’s Center for German and European Studies, part of the international network of Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Centers of Excellence. “She particularly enjoyed meeting the students whom her gifts had so generously supported, to engage with their work, to ask difficult questions, and to challenge them into thinking broadly about their research, its impact on German and European studies and on society at large.”

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Biographical information on Helle Lindemeyer Mears sourced from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Minnesota's Greatest Generation Oral History Project: Part II.

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