Richard D. Brecht, a national leader in language education and policy, has been appointed director of the National Foreign Language Center at Johns Hopkins.
Brecht, who has been one of the Washington-based center's two deputy directors, will succeed David Maxwell, who has resigned after nearly six years to become president of Drake University in Iowa. Maxwell's resignation is effective April 2. Brecht's appointment by the university comes on the recommendation of the center's national advisory board.
"Richard is one of the most visionary thinkers in the foreign language field today," said Dan Davidson, executive director of the American Council of Teachers of Russian and recipient of the Modern Language Association's Distinguished Service to the Profession Award. "He is a gifted teacher and researcher, thinker and theoretician, and he brings all those qualities and that experience to this new position in a very felicitous way."
The NFLC works to improve Americans' foreign language competence and to promote informed language education policy at the federal, state and local levels.
Brecht is a professor of Asian and East European languages and culture at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he has been on the faculty since 1980. He has been associated with the NFLC since 1989, first as a senior research associate. He is author, co-author or co-editor of 10 books, the most recent Language and National Security for the 21st Century: The Federal Role in Supporting National Language Capacity.
A 1968 graduate of The Pennsylvania State University, Brecht attended graduate school at Harvard University, where he earned a doctorate in Slavic languages and literature in 1972.
"His extraordinary capacity to see the big picture and at the same time find the common thread has made Dick very, very effective with organizations, academic institutions and policy-makers," Davidson said. "I am tremendously optimistic about the further development of the National Foreign Language Center under his leadership."
Maxwell, previously president of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and dean of undergraduate studies at Tufts University, came to Johns Hopkins and the NFLC in 1993.
"This decision was indeed a difficult one," Maxwell said. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the NFLC, and share a strong feeling of accomplishment with my colleagues on the staff and on the advisory board. The lure of returning to a university presidency at an institution of Drake's quality was simply too great to resist. It's an institution with an impressive history and an exciting future."
While at the center, Maxwell, a Russian literature scholar, has concentrated on long-term strategies to improve U.S. language skills. He has promoted efforts at outreach to language teachers and collaborative relationships with other interested organizations.
"David Maxwell has made a huge contribution to a continuing interest in foreign language study in our country, and I am sure he will make a significant contribution to Drake University," said former Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., chairman of the national advisory board.
"David has provided tremendous leadership in the field of language policy and study as director of the NFLC," said Stephen M. McClain, vice provost for academic planning and budget. "He is recognized as a national leader in this field and has moved the work of the center forward in substantive ways. He will certainly be missed as director, but we recognize that his new responsibilities will also be consonant with his proven abilities."