The Purdue University North Central faculty member Dr. James Pula, professor of History, was recently honored with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, presented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.
The Order of Merit, signed by the president of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, is awarded to those who have rendered great service to the Polish nation in the areas of research on the history of Poland, the promotion of the Polish culture and service for the Polish diaspora and Poles abroad. The Order of Merit was created in 1974 and is Poland’s highest civilian award.
The Order of Merit is awarded in the classes of: 1st Class Grand Cross of the Order of Merit; 2nd Class Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Merit; 3rd Class Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit; 4th Class
Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit and 5th class – Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.
“Dr. Pula’s dedication to high-quality scholarship is evident. Only seven laureates received awards, the others from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, Penn State, Central Connecticut State University and also the Honorary Consul in Pittsburgh,” said Karen Schmid, PNC vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.
Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit earned by Pula recognized his research, primarily on the Polish immigration to the U.S., and his activities as an international conference organizer, officer and member of the boards of directors of various professional organizations, including the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences and the Polish American Historical Association. Pula was conference vice chair and program chair for the recent two-day conference in Warsaw in June that drew 208 scholars from 16 nations to some 48 academic sessions.
Dr. Michael Lynn, PNC interim associate vice chancellor of Academic Affairs, lauded Pula’s accomplishment, “This is a prestigious and important award which demonstrates the importance and international scope of Dr. Pula’s research.”
Pula has authored a number of books including, “For Liberty and Justice: A Biography of Brig. Gen. Włodzimierz B. Krzyżanowski;” “Thaddeus Kościuszko The Purest Son of Liberty;” “Polish Americans: An Ethnic Community” and “United We Stand: The Role of Polish Workers in the New York Mills Textile Strikes, 1912 and 1916.”
In addition, Pula has edited several books and published dozens of articles.
Pula noted that he enjoys researching his various subjects of interest, “What I find most interesting about history is that it is about people; about how and why they behave the way they do, why they make the decisions they do, and how the cause and effect relationship shapes the world we live in.”
“In large part the history of the United States has been the successive waves of immigration from all over the world that have shaped our history and culture,” he continued. “During the largest period of immigration at the beginning of the 20th century the three largest groups arriving in the U.S. were Italians, Jews and Poles, with most of the Jews also migrating from Poland. Since I am interested in people and the immigration experience, and since I grew up in a largely Polish-American community, I suppose it was somewhat natural that I focused on this group and its European antecedents.”
Pula considers one his most thought-provoking realization from studying immigration to be “what people in any generation view as ‘new’ is simply a recurring theme.”
He explained, “Every major group goes through the same stages of immigration, ethnic community building, reaction from the dominant group and eventual assimilation. We see the same thing happening today, with the same arguments pro and con that appeared in the early nineteenth century and have recurred with each new major wave of immigration. The only reason we think the experience and issues today are “new” is that people are not familiar with their history and do not realize these phenomena are far from ‘new.’ ”