Francie Cate-Arries was just about to leave the stage after giving a lecture at the College of Charleston on Sept. 12 when she was stopped by Mark Del Mastro, the executive director of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.
He had an announcement to make, he told the audience: Cate-Arries, a member of William & Mary’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures since 1986, was being awarded Sigma Delta Pi’s Order of the Discoverers.
At that moment, three student members from the College of Charleston’s chapter stepped forward and presented Cate-Arries with the commemorative plaque.
“I hadn’t shared with my hosts that it was my birthday,” Cate-Arries said. “It is an understatement to say that being honored this way was a most memorable surprise birthday gift.”
The prestigious Order of the Discoverers recognizes, among others, outstanding teachers of Spanish or Hispanic studies at the college or university level, as well as university personnel who have served the cause of Sigma Delta Pi in an exceptional way.
Cate-Arries, who was nominated by the national executive committee of Sigma Delta Pi based on her scholarship and the scope of her activities in the profession, qualifies on several levels. She is a professor of contemporary Spanish cultural and literary studies, and teaches courses at all levels of the curriculum, including Fundamentals of Literary Criticism; The Art & Literature of the Spanish Civil War; Film under Franco; Literary Landscapes of Spain, 1800-2012; Phantasms of Francoism: History, Literature, Memory; and language courses at all levels.
“Dr. Francie Cate-Arries’ impressive record of scholarship along with the broad scope of her other professional accomplishments earned her this important international distinction, which is among Sigma Delta Pi’s top honors,” said Del Mastro.
Cate-Arries regularly serves as a faculty adviser for W&M’s Semester in Sevilla program, which includes an innovative “International Service-Learning Internship” opportunity for qualified students. She also frequently directs the W&M Summer in Cádiz, Spain program, celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2013. She supervises on-site undergraduate research projects about contemporary topics in today´s Spain related to, for example, women´s issues, cinema, immigration, historical memory, music, commemorative cultures and youth cultures.
Her book Spanish Culture Behind Barbed Wire: Memory and Representation of the French Concentration Camps, 1939-1945 (Culturas del exilio español entre las alambradas: Literatura y memoria en Francia, 1939-1945), was the first monograph written about the literature and culture of the French internment camps for Spanish war refugees.
She is no stranger to awards. Cate-Arries was a 2007 recipient of the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia´s Outstanding Faculty Award and received the Plumeri Award for faculty excellence in 2010.
Her relationship with Sigma Delta Pi dates back to the 1970s and her days as an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia when she was inducted into that university’s chapter.
“One of my earliest memories as a new faculty member more than 25 years ago was attending a candlelight induction ceremony in the Wren Chapel for new undergraduate initiates into our local chapter,” she said. “During the years of my tenure at the College, I’ve seen our most outstanding students of Spanish language and culture, under the leadership of my colleague Carla Buck (long-time faculty adviser for our local chapter), join the ranks of the national membership.
“To have the society officially recognize my work as a professor and a scholar in the field of Hispanic studies is an especially satisfying connection to have with this accomplished body of university students. Good company to keep!”