Kevin S. Amidon

Kevin Amidon was born in 1971 and grew up in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kansas.  He was fortunate to have supportive parents and three brothers who he enjoyed doing all kinds of things with.  Over the years, he came to love four things that have become central and related aspects of his life: education, music, travel, and cars.

Kevin was lucky to have superb teachers throughout his education who challenged him to learn a wide range of things.  He enjoyed studying the sciences, languages (German), history, literature, music, and economics, and had excellent teachers and opportunities in those areas.  Throughout high school (at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in Michigan) and university (at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor) he had a difficult time choosing what to specialize in.  He knew relatively early in his university studies that he would like to become a teacher and scholar at the university level, because he had been so fortunate to experience such fine teaching from others.   After exploring the possibility of pursuing graduate degrees in economics and history, he settled on German Studies (language, literature, and history) as his graduate field, and was fortunate to be able to complete his M.A. (1995) and Ph.D. (2001) degrees at Princeton University.  During his undergraduate and graduate studies, he was also able to spend substantial time studying and working in Germany and Austria, including at the Mozarteum music school in Salzburg (summer 1989), at the universities in Freiburg (1990-91) and Frankfurt am Main (1997-98 as German Academic Exchange Service/DAAD Graduate Fellow), and as an editorial intern at the Rowohlt publishing house near Hamburg (summer 1995).  In 2003-04 he was a postdoctoral fellow of the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Free University of Berlin.  Despite the always-difficult market for academic talent, he was fortunate to able to build this training into a career of teaching, research, and service, serving as Lecturer of German and Great Books at the University of Michigan (1999-2002), as Assistant and Associate Professor of German Studies at Iowa State University (2002-2019), and as Director of the Honors College and Associate Professor of Modern Languages at Fort Hays State University (2019-present). His teaching has been recognized by The University of Michigan Honors Program with its Margaret and Paul Lurie Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2001), and by Iowa State University with its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching (2014) and its Cassling Family Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence (2015). His research focuses on the history and theory of human diversity, with special emphasis on scientific and musical, and literary texts. His broad expertise brought him the invitation to serve on the Board of Directors of TSRL Inc., a pharmaceutical research accelerator firm based in Ann Arbor Michigan, on which he serves as chair of the compensation committee and secretary. He also serves as a facilitator for the Management Development Center at Fort Hays State University.

Throughout the development of his career as a teacher and scholar, Kevin has also pursued a parallel career as a professional violinist and violist.  In fact, he cannot remember a time in his life when he did not play the violin.  He began in 1974 at age three, and studied with Kathryn Siegel, Eleanor Allen, and Shigetoshi Yamada.  He began viola studies at the age of six.  He has performed ever since as a soloist, chamber musician, and symphonic and opera player around the world.  Particular performance highlights include the first-ever concert tour in 1983 of the People’s Republic of China by American and Japanese students of the Suzuki Method; participation with the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra in the conducting seminar of the Salzburg Mozarteum music school with Michael Gielen in 1989; concert tours of Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom with the Princeton University Orchestra in 1994, 1996, and 1998; and performances with members of the Berlin Philharmonic in Germany and Italy in 2003 and 2004.  His major professional affiliation since 2005 has been with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra.  Since 2002 he as also served as concertmaster of the Central Iowa Symphony in Ames.  Other orchestras with which he has performed regularly over the years include the Adrian Symphony (Michigan), Lima Symphony (Ohio), Sinfonieorchester Schöneberg (Berlin), Kammerorchester Parsberg (Oberpfalz/Germany), Dubuque Symphony (Iowa), and Simpson College Opera Theater (Iowa). He also served from 2010-2016 on the Board of Directors of the Ames Town & Gown Chamber Music Association, including as President (2013-2016).

Kevin’s educational and musical path also made it possible for him to travel a great deal from a young age.  He loves all kinds of travel, loves sharing it with others, and loves to see students and young people able to expand their experience by seeing more of the world around them.  With his dad and brothers, he fell in love with the outdoors as a child, and enjoys wilderness canoeing and backpacking.  His first trip abroad took place at age 11, when he was able to see Japan and the People’s Republic of China in depth – at a time when China was not yet easily accessible to tourists – as part of a group of young musicians.  The sights, sounds, and experiences immediately captivated him.  A first trip to Germany in 1987 with his two superb high school German teachers ignited a fascination with that culture.  At a time when Germany and Berlin were still divided by walls, he was able to see both West and East Germany, and has followed and studied the changes in German culture ever since.  In the years since he has continued to visit Germany and Europe regularly, but has expanded his travels around the world, having visited all 50 states, almost 40 countries, and every continent except Antarctica.  Despite the dangers of climate change from carbon emissions, Kevin believes that genuine experience of other cultures and peoples is the best way to build a better and more peaceful world, and that the downside of environmental damage is at least partially offset by personal growth and intercultural understanding achieved through travel.

Finally, Kevin’s enjoyment of travel and history led him to a hobby that serves both those interests further.  Even as a teenager he also loved balancing his more cerebral and artistic pursuits with a hands-on hobby: working on cars and all their technical systems.  Furthermore, his fascination with Europe led him to want to understand why those cars were particularly well regarded in the 1970s and 1980s as he was growing up.  He has both owned and worked on a wide range of European cars: Volvo, Volkswagen, Audi, Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Jaguar.  He even built this hobby into a small side business, Classic Euro Engines, LLC, through which he provides service, advice, and consulting to clients interested in maintaining their vintage European cars.  He currently daily drives a 45mpg 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI (with updated emissions software!), and in good weather his noisy but highly reliable, efficient, and safe 1981 Mercedes-Benz 300D Diesel in China Blue. He can be seen regularly on summer road trips in his handsome 1983 BMW 733i 5-speed in Alpine White, his cute and tough-as-nails 1969 Peugeot 404 sedan, and his perfect-handling and magnificently comfortable 1979 Peugeot 604 D turbo Gran Comfort.

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