PULLMAN, Wash. — A medallion representing Germany’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Merit, was presented to retired professor Lothar Kreck Wednesday, Feb. 10, at an official ceremony hosted by the Hotel and Restaurant Administration program at Washington State University.
Manfred Birmelin, consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany, traveled from Seattle to present in person the red enameled cross suspended from a thick gold, red and black ribbon. Kreck had received word in October that the Order of Merit had been bestowed upon him by the president of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“Dr. Kreck is a unique person whose tireless efforts, consulting and community service have fostered friendship and understanding among the young people in our two countries — the United States and Germany,” said Birmelin. He warmly thanked Kreck for his “help and devotion to German students who studied in the U.S.”
“To receive the award is a great honor and the crowning achievement in my career. I feel humble and very grateful to the many people who participated and made it possible,” said Kreck.
The Order of Merit is the only award given by the German government to civilians for outstanding service to Germany. Kreck received the honor for his many efforts to promote academic relations between the United States and Germany, and for his outstanding service to two German schools since 1983.
At the University of Munich, he taught several courses over many years to local and WSU students there. And, at the industry-oriented Fachhochschule Munchen (Bavaria State College), he evaluated curriculum and helped bring several German students to WSU to study in the MBA program in the College of Business and Economics.
“We live in a time of global expansion and people of all nationalities have to find a way to co-exist peacefully, to work together for the well-being of their citizens,” Kreck told an audience of family, friends and colleagues following a banquet prepared and served by HRA students. “But this cannot happen without preparing young people for the tasks ahead of them. We, as educators, have a duty to offer our students an education which spans from one country to another, and which gives the students a chance to explore and experience different educational systems in other cultures, such as the American and German cultures. I believe in this and tried to achieve it. This award is a confirmation of my beliefs.”
In the United States, there are only 45 living Order of Merit recipients since 1949. Kreck is the only one in eastern Washington.
He retired from WSU in 1997 after more than two and a half decades with the HRA program. He headed the HRA program from 1971 to 1979. In 1986, he received a Fulbright grant to teach at the University of Munich. In 1987, he became HRA’s first Ivar B. Haglund Distinguished Professor, now held by Denney Rutherford. Kreck wrote numerous papers on tourism, travel and hospitality, and served as a leader in many industry organizations. He created the first computerized knowledge-based program for the U.S. food service industry, called “First Food Cost Expert.”
Since retiring from the WSU classroom, Kreck, a renowned expert in tourism, has traveled to Chile and Australia to be a guest expert to universities and corporations. He continues to author academic papers, such as one on the historical development of tourism in eastern Europe and another on the challenges of hospitality operations in Thailand. The former Washington-Idaho Symphony cellist also has written a piano concerto, completed a “chorus a cappella,” and finished an organ composition.
Upon his retirement from WSU, he established the Kreck Collection in the WSU Holland Library’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections area. Made up of hotel journals from the late 1800s and early 1900s and antique cookbooks, the collection makes these resources available for study and viewing.

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