Maxine Bruhns Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Issue Date: 
November 25, 2013

E.E. Maxine Bruhns Maxine Bruhns, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Nationality Rooms Program since 1965, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania on Nov. 16. The award recognizes local women whose work has had a global impact.

Bruhns’ life experiences have made her more than qualified for both her job and the Women and Girls Foundation award. As the awards’ dinner program described Bruhns: “If you name a country in the world, E. Maxine Bruhns has been there. And she has not only been there, but she probably has a deep appreciation for the culture and can understand the subtleties of the nation and what makes it unique.”

For 15 years before becoming director of the Nationality Rooms, Bruhns lived and traveled all over the world, including Austria, Jordan, Lebanon, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran, Germany, Greece, and Gabon. She and her husband, the late Fred C. Bruhns, lived abroad as he worked in refugee resettlement after World War II. He later became a professor in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

As director of the 29 Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, Bruhns has worked tirelessly to make the rooms authentic and engaging. Bruhns has overseen the fundraising and dedication of at least 10 of the rooms, including the Israel Heritage Room, the Armenian Room, and the African Heritage Room, which honors African cultures by representing ancient African kingdoms. The rooms are funded by private donations, raised primarily by a self-designated room committee comprising members of the heritage represented by the space.

The gift shop on the first floor of the Cathedral of Learning sells items from around the world, many chosen by Bruhns herself.

She also oversees the Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, a Summer Study Abroad Scholarship Program. During her tenure, the program has expanded, increasing the number of students funded annually. Over the years, more than 1,000 students have been able to study abroad because of the grants, which are funded by the various Nationality Rooms committees.

Bruhns has won many honors for her work, including the World Affairs Council’s David Glick Award, the Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania Award, the American Lebanese Congress Ethnic Heritage Award, and the YWCA’s Tribute to Women Award. She is also a longtime donor to international programs at Pitt.

Originally from Grafton, W.Va., Bruhns has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University, and a master’s degree from the American University of Beirut in Beirut.