BATON ROUGE – On Thursday, Feb. 9, three LSU faculty members were inducted into the French Republic’s prestigious Ordre des Palmes Academiques, or the Order of the French Academic Palms. The award recognizes both foreigners and French living abroad who promote French education and culture.
LSU College of Art & Design Dean Alkis P. Tsolakis and Center of Civil Law Director and Assistant Dean Olivier Moréteau were both bestowed the grade of Officier. Center for French and Francophone Studies Director and the Phyllis M. Taylor Professor in French Studies Alexandre Leupin received the grade of Chevalier, or knight.
During the event, the Consul Général de France Monsieur Grégor Trumel honored the three recipients from LSU by bestowing upon them Les Palmes Académiques for their contributions to French academics and their active enhancement of the prestige of French culture.
Each honoree gave a short acceptance speech after receiving the decoration.
“This honor belongs to the College of Art & Design; it is in recognition of our work to preserve the cultural legacy of Louisiana and to preserve and enhance the traditional ties to France,” Tsolakis said. “The Consulate of France in New Orleans has been an invaluable supporter and ally in these efforts.”
Moréteau said he was honored to be inducted into the Ordre des Palmes Academiques.
“This is a great recognition for my modest efforts to promote the French culture and language in Louisiana, here at LSU Law, where I teach a class in French and send many students to France, also by making the Louisiana Civil Code available in English and in French on websites and soon on paper,” he said. “During my whole academic career, 22 years in Lyon and soon 12 at LSU, I have worked at developing legal and cultural exchanges, promoting student and staff mobility, making foreign cultures accessible to the French and French culture to students and folks outside France, particularly in Louisiana.”
Moréteau added, “This is a beautiful medal with LSU colors, purple and gold! It honors my new home.”
The recognitions were made during the Friends of French Studies annual meeting and dinner at the Club at LSU Union Square.
“Humanities are in fact the curators of meaning,” Leupin said. “If you lessen or suppress them, you will face a tremendously impoverished life. That is why we should value them and defend them, and not only defend them, but promote and impose their vital necessity. And who will defend the humanities? Us, academics, because if we don’t delve into past and future meanings offered by art, nobody will do, and they will be lost. For us, at LSU, in Louisiana, the only American state where French culture is organic, exceptional backing for French is an absolute imperative.”
The Academic Palms was founded by Napoleon in 1808 to honor educators and is the oldest non-military French decoration. This distinction was initially awarded to outstanding members of the university community. Today, it recognizes the significant contributions of teachers through their teaching, scholarship and leadership over the course of their careers. It is also bestowed upon a select group of individuals who, though not members of academia, have demonstrated outstanding devotion to the French language and culture. It is awarded by the Prime Minister of France, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Education.
Members of the Order of the French Academic Palms residing in the United States are invited to become members in the American Society of the French Academic Palms, or ASFAP, which is the Section USA of the Association des Membres de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
During the Friends of French Studies annual meeting, special recognition was made for Louis D. Curet, the founder of the Friends of French Studies at LSU. Curet’s daughter and son-in-law, Jeanne Curet James and David James, were acknowledged and voted as honorary board members of the organization. In addition, members were encouraged to contribute to the Louis Curet Student Travel Endowment in French Studies.
About Friends of French Studies
The Friends of French Studies at LSU supports and participates in the mission of LSU’s Department of French Studies and other French educational programs and activities of the university. The goal is to preserve and promote Louisiana’s unique Francophone heritage and culture, including Cajun, Creole and classical French traditions.
The Friends of French Studies serves as an official liaison between the Department of French Studies, the Center for French and Francophone Studies and affiliated programs, on the one hand, and the state and community on the other. Members will be invited to participate in university activities including French films, lectures, receptions, poetry readings and concerts. The friends also support the French programs at LSU through fund-raising and endowments.