United States of America
Philosopher, culture manager, former Director of the American Academy in Berlin
DAAD Scholarship 1974
Texan Gary Smith never found Germany a completely alien country. His mother, a German Jew, emigrated to the United States in 1939; 35 years later, her son landed in Frankfurt as a DAAD scholarship holder. Gary Smith studied philosophy at the local university with a focus on German-Jewish culture. At the same time, the then 24-year-old worked at publishers Suhrkamp-Verlag on bringing out the work of the author Walter Benjamin.
That I work in Berlin is due to my DAAD scholarship.
With his books on the German-Jewish cultural philosopher, Gary Smith, born 1954, has made a name for himself as an academic researcher. Besides his own publications, he has also edited texts by the Jewish religious scholar Gershom Scholem and by Albert Einstein.
Married to a German, the father of four children has lived in Berlin for around 20 years now. Smith is one of the capital’s outstanding personalities.
He was Executive Director of the American Academy in Berlin from 1998 to 2014. It is where famous artists, academics and researchers, journalists and writers from the United States spend a year in Berlin and exchange views with German experts. “But the Academy is everything but an academic hermitage,” says Smith. The fellows are integrated into the community through their projects and work all the way through Berlin society.
“Our fellows are important as multipliers, very much like DAAD scholarship holders. That I work in Berlin is due to my DAAD scholarship.” When Smith retired, at just under 60, from his position as Executive Director of the now prestigious research and cultural institution in 2014, he commented to the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel: “The Academy is in good shape – I’ve done my job.” He is now working on a new book project.