Lured to the United States more than 20 years ago by another European-American luminary — Henry Kissinger — Wilson School professor Wolfgang Danspeckgruber has recently been renewing ties with his native country of Austria.
At a ceremony in Manhattan earlier this month, Gerhard Pfanzelter, Austria's ambassador to the United Nations, presented Danspeckgruber with the Grand Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria.
In a speech given at the ceremony, Pfanzelter said the decoration recognizes Danspeckgruber's work in creating strong relations between Austria and the United States and his role as both a scholar and a "committed citizen" of Austria.
Pfanzelter also commended Danspeckgruber for the assistance he provided to the Austrian mission to the United Nations during the first half of 2006, when preparations were being made for Austria's tenure in the rotating presidency of the European Union.
The original announcement was made in August, when Austrian President Heinz Fischer chose Danspeckgruber to receive the decoration.
Danspeckgruber, a former diplomat who has worked at Princeton since 1989, expressed surprise at receiving the award, which he said is typically bestowed upon an individual after retirement. Chuckling, he gave assurance that he wouldn't be retiring anytime soon.
He added that this recognition from his "old home country" reminded him of the affinity he has developed for the United States, "a country where one is open to establish one's own dreams."
"It's a bizarre feeling," he noted. "In a way, the old home is calling to reward you, but it's also a feeling which makes you think that you are now in a new world."
"I see it as a validation of my work I have done abroad in the last two-and-a-half decades," Danspeckgruber added. "Perhaps they sometimes do recognize things I have been saying."
Danspeckgruber, who founded and directs the University's Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, said his work "has been made a model for how things are done in Austria and Switzerland."
He described his diplomatic achievements as "satisfying," yet also emphasized his passion for "promoting the excellence of the young generation" and exposing students to the "realpolitik world" outside the classroom.
Kayvon Tehranian '08, who has been working for Danspeckgruber since his freshman year, said he admires the professor's ability to maintain an emphasis on teaching despite heavy diplomatic involvement.
"He adheres to what Princeton would expect from a professor," Tehranian said.