Fairfield Selected as National Headquarters for Alpha Mu Gamma Honor Society
Nearly 25 years after he established the Eta Pi Chapter of the Alpha Mu Gamma (AMG) National Collegiate Foreign Language Honor Society at Fairfield University, Fr. Victor F. Leeber, S.J., one of Fairfield’s original Spanish professors, was nearing the end of his career when he began pondering the fate of his inaugural program. Worried that the chapter’s existence might end with his own tenure, he confided his fears to then Adjunct Professor Eileen Wilkinson, PhD, and offered a simple plea: “Please don’t let it die here.”
Twenty years and one promise later, Dr. Wilkinson is now a professor of the practice of German in Fairfield’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and has worked diligently with her colleagues Dr. Covadonga Arango-Martin, professor of practice, and Dr. Zoe Erotopoulos, associate professor of practice, to honor Fr. Leeber’s wishes and grow Eta Pi into the largest, most active group in the society’s 350-plus national chapters. This past summer, the department’s efforts to keep Fr. Leeber’s legacy alive reached the pinnacle of success as Fairfield University was officially named the new national headquarters for the AMG National Collegiate Foreign Language Honor Society.
“Alpha Mu Gamma is my life,” laughed Dr. Wilkinson, who also serves as the Eta Pi Chapter faculty advisor and AMG national scholarship chairperson, “so this truly is an honor. I told Father Leeber I would carry on his legacy and look where we are today.”
Today, Fairfield not only boasts the largest AMG chapter with over 200 members and 60 more that are expected to be inducted this spring, but its Eta Pi members also hold the record for being awarded the most Alpha Mu Gamma national scholarships than any other university since 2008. In addition to hosting two successful national AMG conventions in 2001 and 2009, Fairfield’s chapter continues to encourage an intense interest in the study of foreign languages, while fostering a sympathetic understanding of cultures through service learning projects that involve interacting with Bridgeport’s inner-city youth, as well as the University’s own unique population of international students.
“Being selected as the national headquarters for Alpha Mu Gamma is not only a testament to the caliber of our students, but it speaks volumes of Eileen and the other men and women who are dedicated to mentoring our students to excel in language studies,” said Department of Modern Languages and Literatures Chair Jerelyn Johnson, PhD. “This level of recognition not only highlights our great work, but helps raise the University’s profile and visibility on a national level.
Since its inception in 1931, the Alpha Mu Gamma headquarters had been exclusively located at Los Angeles City College (LACC), where it was founded to honor achievement in all foreign languages at the college level. At the society’s Biennial Convention this past April, the constitution was amended for the first time to allow institutions other than LACC to host the national headquarters. After receiving numerous proposals from academic institutions spanning the United States, the executive board voted on the top two candidates and almost unanimously selected Fairfield as the new location of their national headquarters.
“Because we’ve been involved with the society for so long and have served in various leadership roles, we have a vision for how things can be done differently and more effectively,” Dr. Wilkinson explained. “I think the board felt that our experience would be an asset during this time of transition and instrumental in taking Alpha Mu Gamma to the next level.”
Getting to the next level starts with taking first steps, and Alpha Mu Gamma is already well on its way to establishing a new home at Fairfield. By late August, AMG had hired a part-time administrative assistant, who along with faculty and volunteers began sorting through more than 25 boxes that were shipped across country, before eventually setting-up the society’s new office in Canisius Hall. While Dr. Wilkinson admits that there is still plenty to be done, the new AMG headquarters is fully operational and has already begun its work as the official sponsor of National Foreign Language Week in March 2017.
“We’re still sorting through files and getting our bearings,” Wilkinson said, “but we are excited to take on this new responsibility and look forward to improving operations in the months to come."