George Greenia, known for his work in medieval studies and on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, received Spain's highest cultural achievement distinction for foreign nationals this fall.
The Cross of Isabel the Catholic was conferred on Greenia, professor of modern languages and literatures, for his contributions to research and dissemination of Spain's cultural heritage. Greenia is the first person in the College's history to receive the honor, which is bestowed by the king of Spain and akin to the Order of the British Empire or France's Legion of Honor.
"It's pretty stunning news since this is an honor that's existed for over 200 years in Spain and they give it to foreign nationals very selectively," said Greenia.
Carlos Westendorp, ambassador of Spain to the United States, conferred the distinction on Greenia and three other honorees at his home in Washington, D.C., as part of a pre-Columbus Day celebration.
The distinction is awarded only once a year and some years no awards are given at all. Nominations are made by the ambassador of Spain and are approved by Spanish King Juan Carlos I, who is the master of the Order of Isabel the Catholic.
Formerly a Franciscan brother, Greenia has worked at William and Mary for 26 years and specializes in the Spanish Middle Ages. He served for ten years as director of William and Mary's program in medieval and renaissance studies, and over the past three summers has guided William and Mary undergraduates in retracing on foot the entire 500-mile route of the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. He is both editor of the La corónica, a journal devoted to medieval Iberia, and editor of American Pilgrim, a magazine that presents public scholarship to the international pilgrimage community.