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Alumni Profile - Bruce Pauley: Historian and Major Donor

I would like to take this opportunity to share a few personal reflections about the impact of the Fulbright Program on the life and career of Bruce Pauley, one of our distinguished alumni from the early 1960s and professor emeritus of history at the University of Central Florida. He is widely recognized as one of the major American historians of Austrian history in his generation, a doyen in the field of Austrian studies, and the first major donor to Fulbright Austria. At the beginning of June, he visited Vienna with his wife, Marianne, and their two grandchildren and held a fascinating lecture at the Amerika Haus. This is a brief version of Bruce Pauley’s Fulbright story.

As a high school student from Lincoln, Nebraska, Bruce Pauley took a three-month trip to Europe with his parents in the summer of 1954 and audaciously informed his parents upon returning home that he was going to become a historian. The first indirect contact he had with the Fulbright Program was as an undergraduate at Grinnell College in Iowa in the mid-1950s, when he enrolled in the fledgling Institute of European Studies program in Vienna during the 1957-58 academic year. This study abroad program for American undergraduates was established by Paul Koutney, a proto-Fulbright grantee from Austria who had studied at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the earliest days of the Fulbright Program in 1949-50. Koutney was a genuine pioneer in the field we now call “study abroad.” Animated by his Fulbright experience and the Fulbright idea, Koutney established the first US study abroad program in Austria upon returning to Vienna. In the decades since its founding father created the institute, the Institute of European Studies has rebranded as IES Abroad and become a global operation with thirty centers worldwide, making it one of the largest study abroad providers in the United States today.

Bruce did coursework at IES Vienna and the University of Vienna, learned German, and lived with an Austrian student named Walter Siegl, who was a nephew of Koutney’s wife, Brita. (He and Walter became lifelong friends, and Walter went on to have a distinguished career in the Austrian Foreign Service.) Bruce retrospectively called this undergraduate year in Vienna a “great awakener”: a transformative experience that was to determine the trajectory of his entire career.

After graduating from Grinnell, Bruce went on to complete a master’s degree in history at the University of Nebraska and then enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Rochester. He studied under Arthur J. May, one of the most legendary American historians of the Habsburg Empire in the United States at the time. This led him to apply for a Fulbright grant to spend a research year (1963-64) in Graz. In the course of his research, the focus of his dissertation mutated from the idea of an urban history of Graz during the Dual Monarchy, 1867-1918, to a regional study of the relationships between the evolution of indigenous, conservative, right-wing, paramilitary organizations in Styria – the so-called Heimwehr – and the Austrian Nazi Party in the interwar period.

Looking back on his year in Graz, Bruce observed that he knew that research on right-wing extremism and Nazism in Austria in the 1960s was “politically incorrect and controversial.” At the same time, it informed much of his subsequent career: “How exactly to grapple with Austrian Nazism, and later Austrian antisemitism, in a way that would be seen by Austrians as fair and convincing was an issue I would have to resolve for much of my career.”

After his Fulbright year in Graz, Bruce completed his dissertation at Rochester and ultimately went on to become a professor of history at the University of Central Florida. His dissertation was translated into German and published in Austria as a book — Hahnenschwanz und Hakenkreuz — in 1972. He then distinguished himself with a series of early and mid-career publications on Austria, including The Habsburg Legacy: 1867-1939 (1977), Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis: A History of Austrian National Socialism (1981), and From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism (1992). (The latter two books were cutting-edge research when they were published and today enjoy the status of standard works. Both also have the distinction of having been translated into German and published in Austria.)

In 1997, Prof.  Pauley crowned his career, which started with a provincial study of right-wing politics in interwar Austria in the 1960s, with a pan-European comparative study of authoritarianism in Europe — Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century — that is currently in its fourth edition. Looking back, one could say that his career began as a regional study of authoritarianism in Austria in the interwar period and culminated in a global study of authoritarianism in the twentieth century.

I can enthusiastically recommend reading his most recent book and memoir, Pioneering History on Two Continents: An Autobiography (Potomac Books, 2014). It is a great read for anybody interested in immigrant heritage, growing up in the Midwest in the 1950s, the transformative power of international education, Austria, or history as a profession.

Fulbright Austria and the Cultural Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Vienna invited Prof. Pauley to give a lecture at the Amerika Haus in Vienna on June 7, 2018 entitled “An American Historian’s View of the First Republic, 1918-1938.” His talk was particularly timely given the multiple anniversaries Austria is marking this year, including the centennial anniversary of the dismemberment of the Habsburg Empire, the proclamation of the Republic of Austria in November 1918, and the seventieth anniversary of the Anschluss in March 1938. He was also confronted with an impossible task: to summarize a lifetime of scholarship in about 50 minutes. His engaging, wide-ranging, informative, personal, and entertaining talk, which departed substantially from the paper he had originally prepared for the talk, was well received by a full house and engaged audience.

Heidemarie Uhl from the Austrian Academy of Sciences—one of the foremost Austrian experts on history, memory, and Austrian historiography in the twentieth century—introduced Prof. Pauley at his lecture, noting the importance of his pioneering research in the 1980s and 1990s and the value of his perspective as an outsider looking in. With his books on National Socialism in Austria and Austrian antisemitism, he contributed substantially to Austria’s coming to terms with its own past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) in the pre- and post-Waldheim years. The Republic of Austria acknowledged Prof. Pauley’s accomplishments in 2010 by awarding him one of its highest honors for academic achievement: “the Austrian Cross of Honor for Letters and the Arts 1st Class”.

Last but by no means least, Bruce Pauley became Fulbright Austria’s first major donor in 2013, when he graciously made an unsolicited donation of $10,000 to Fulbright Austria. He requested that those funds be directed to the www.SaveFulbright.org initiative, an Austrian-led grassroots initiative that was instrumental in procuring congressional support to prevent a 13% cut ($30 million) to the Fulbright Program proposed by the Obama administration.

When Bruce was in Vienna in 2018, he announced his second major gift of $15,000 to Fulbright Austria, which he would like to use as an inspiration to others. The funds will incentivize more giving by acting as a 1:1 match to US alumni donations so that more young Americans can have access to opportunities in the future like the ones he and other Fulbright alumni have had in the past.

Fulbright Austria wants to thank Bruce and his wife, Marianne, for their exemplary generosity and to encourage other US alumni who have shared the Fulbright experience in Austria to contribute, too. In times like these, sustaining the Fulbright Program depends on alumni like Bruce and like you. Please make a tax-deductible contribution from the United States or from Austria today to help secure the life-changing opportunities of the Fulbright Program in Austria!

Sincerest thanks for your support.

Dr. Lonnie Johnson, Executive Director

Austrian Ambassador to the US Christian Prosl (l.) and Prof. Pauley at the Austrian Cross of Honor award ceremony in Orlando, March 2010