Robert Rothstein, Slavic and East European Studies, Receives Republic of Poland’s Order of Merit

AMHERST, Mass. – Robert A. Rothstein, Amesbury Professor of Polish Language, Literature, and Culture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been awarded the Republic of Poland’s Order of Merit. It is the highest award conferred on non-Poles and Poles living abroad and it recognizes international cooperation or cooperation between Poland and other countries.

The presentation too place on Monday, Sept. 15 during a special dinner ceremony hosted by UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy at the chancellor’s residence, Hillside.

The Order of Merit was presented by Marek Lesniewski-Laas, honorary consul of the Republic of Poland on behalf of Polish President Bronisław Komorowski.

“As an officer of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, I have been honored with the duty of representing the president in making the presentation of the Order to professor Rothstein,” wrote Lesniewski-Laas recently, adding that the Order is the “highest award given to persons living outside of Poland.”

For Rothstein, the Order of Merit reflects and honors a longstanding connection to and focus on the language and culture of Poland.

“I am truly honored and delighted,” he said.

Rothstein notes that this connection with the language and culture of Poland has strengthened continually over the past 50 years. Since 2004 he has contributed a regular column on Polish language, literature and folklore called “Two Words to the Wiseî” to the Boston biweekly newspaper Bialy Orzel/White Eagle.

At UMass Amherst, Rothstein directs the Slavic and East European Studies program. He holds a joint appointment in the department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, an adjunct appointment in the Department of Linguistics and in 2006 was appointed the Walter Raleigh Amesbury Jr. and Cecile Dudley Amesbury Professor of Polish Language, Literature and Culture.

The professorship was established in 2005 under an endowment created with a $900,000 gift from the estate of Walter Raleigh Amesbury Jr., a retired economist from Philadelphia who wanted to honor his late wife, a descendant of one of the oldest royal families in Krakow, Poland. Rothstein was selected for the chair following a national search.

After training in linguistics at MIT under Noam Chomsky, among others, he completed his master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard before joining the UMass Amherst faculty in 1971.