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The Friedrich Schiller University mourns for a great scientist

Obituary of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena about Amélie Mummendey (19 June 1944 - 17 December 2018)

The Friedrich Schiller University Jena is greatly saddened to announce the death of Prof. Dr Amélie Mummendey. After a short severe disease, the internationally acclaimed researcher died on 17 December 2018 at the age of 74 in Jena. Being active in numerous honorary positions, she rendered the science, especially by promoting young researchers, a great service.

Amélie Mummendey was born in Bonn where she also studied psychology at the local university. In 1970, she received her doctorate at the University of Mainz. Four years later, Amélie Mummendey earned her postdoctoral lecturing qualification at the University of Münster where she was appointed Professor of Social Psychology in 1980.

Amélie Mummendey founded and lead research groups which dealt with relations in social groups, first in Münster (19972011) and then in Jena (19801996). She was able to arouse enthusiasm for this research topic amongst many of her students and colleagues. Particularly, it was the research group in Jena that she helped to evolve into an internationally recognized centre of group research. Amélie Mummendey investigated how people who share common ideas band together, what does differ them from other groups, how a difference of opinion among the groups involved may lead to conflicts, and how they can complement each other. Furthermore, she had a special interest in examining under what circumstances differences between groups are relevant to the individuals involved and when one tolerates and values these differences or, however, rejects and contests them. One of her central concerns were social discrimination and the question when and why group members behave negatively towards other groups as well as how this may be prevented. Thus she addressed the main issues of her discipline and of the societal co-existence.

In this context, she used to attribute specific everyday observations to more general principles and to provide explanations which would present these observations comprehensibly. Her approach was marked by questioning existing assumptions (What if it is rather the other way round?) and a critical empirical examination of her considerations. She never got tired of questioning the significance of basic theoretical modelsof her own and those of the others. While doing so, she always paid attention to the tiniest detail of her research without losing the sight of the big picture. Amélie Mummendey strived for a wider perspective, one that reaches beyond social psychology and psychology to other disciplines. She filled her colleagues with eager and motivated them being highly motivated and tireless herself as well as by her universal interest.

Her students and colleagues could always rely on her paying attention to their needs and giving them a basic intellectual support. In discussions, Amélie Mummendey neglected her person and her theoretical positions, she encouraged objectiveness, theoretical and methodical pluralism. In her opinion, it was rather the quality of the arguments and studies not the person introducing the issue to the research. Generally, she promoted the importance of the quality rather than quantity in research and in publication activities.

Amélie Mummendey was awarded the most prestigious prizes within her international expert community and was one of her most influential members. By having initiated the annual Jena Workshops on Intergroup Relations, she created a unique, internationally known type of conference and built a bridge between the European and the American social psychology. In 2016, the German Psychological Society awarded her the prize for her engagement in supporting young researchers. As a matter of fact, Amélie Mummendey moulded an outstanding number of students into important professors in Germany and abroad who are now spreading the spirit and the content of Mummendeys research.

Amélie Mummendey gained highest recognition also by engaging in voluntary activities in the science. Having had an extensive expertise, she was always in demand and a valued adviser for scientific institutions and organizations. She was, for example, a member of the university boards at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the University of Münster, a chairperson of the Foundation Council at the Einstein Foundation, a member of the Senate at the Leibniz Association, a member of the German Council of Science and Humanities and a chairperson of the Science Commission of the Council, a member of the Science Advisory Board at the European Science Foundation,  a member of the Selection Committee for the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme (DFG) as well as a member of the Academic Council of the Humboldt Foundation.

In 2015, Amélie Mummendey was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In addition, she was a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Academy of Sciences in Erfurt.

In particular, she was passionate about supporting young researchers. In this context, Amélie Mummendey was a spokesperson for a rather successful International Research Training Group (DFG). She founded and led Jenas Graduate Academy as the first female vice-president at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. She was also a founder member and a deputy chairperson of the German University Association of Advanced Graduate Training (UniWiND), a member of the Steering Committee at the EUA Council for Doctoral Education, a member of the Selection Committee of the International Max Planck Research Schools, and a member of the Scientific Committee of the German Report on Early-Career Researchers (BuWiN).

Amélie Mummendey will be remembered as a greatly respected researcher, university teacher, and as a person paving the way for many scientific careers. We perceive her unconditional striving for the quality of scientific work and a critical distance to ones own research results, which she was constantly practising herself, as our obligation and motivation for the future.

The memorial service will take place on January 8, 2019 at 2 pm in the Friedenskirche Jena. The funeral will be attended later by family and close friends. Instead of donating wreaths and flowers, a donation is requested for a tree planting on the grounds of the University of Jena (recipient: Freunde und Förderer of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena e.V., Commerzbank Jena, IBAN: DE78 8204 0000 0253 9609 00, BIC: COBADEFFXXX, keyword: Amélie Mummendey).

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