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Columbia College mourns the loss of Fritz Stern CC’46, GSAS’53

Friday, May 20, 2016

Columbia College mourns the loss of former Provost and longtime history professor Fritz Stern CC’46, GSAS’53.

In a statement, President Lee C. Bollinger noted that, “for decades, Fritz Stern was among Columbia’s most eminent faculty, and everything he did, as a scholar, teacher, and public intellectual, defined what it means to be each of those things.”

As a child, Stern was forced to flee Nazi Germany in the 1930s; he subsequently attended the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Though he entered the College with plans to go into medicine, “classes with Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling stoked his enthusiasm for the humanities,” according to an obituary printed in The New York Times.

Defying the advice to continue with medicine given to him by family friend Albert Einstein, Stern chose history and went on to become a pioneering historian on the rise of German National Socialism.

Stern won honors for his teaching and prizes for his acclaimed books, including a Lionel Trilling Book Award in 1977 and a Great Teacher Award in 1978. He was awarded Columbia’s highest academic ranks, as both the Seth Low Professor of History chair and University Professor, and served as Provost from 1980-1983.