Dr. Fred Toner, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, received the oldest and most respected award presented to academics by the French government on May 20.
Denis Quénelle, Deputy Cultural Attaché in the Office of Cultural Affairs at the Consulate General of France, attended a reception at Ohio University to present the award from the French government.
Toner was given the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques in recognition of his outstanding dedication to teaching French and his involvement in the Department of Modern Languages at Ohio University.
The honor, Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (literally, Knight in the Order of Academic Palms), was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1808 to recognize outstanding achievement at the university level. Recipients, originally called “officers of the Academy,” were given the privilege of wearing double palm branches embroidered on their academic robes. In 1850 Napoleon III transformed the award into a medal consisting of palm and olive branches intertwined to shape an oblong crown hanging from a violet ribbon, the form it still has today. For a non-French citizen, the nomination has to be approved first by a committee at the French Embassy in Washington. The selection is then sent to the Foreign Ministry in Paris, which reviews the candidate’s qualifications and forwards the recommendation to the Ministry of Education for the final decision.
“Promoting French culture has been a labor of love,” says Toner. “It is a true pleasure and honor to be recognized by a country whose literature and ‘art de vivre’ has inspired me for most of my adult life.”
“I believe that my involvement with language teachers in the region as co-chair of the Ohio Valley Foreign Language Alliance, and on the state level with the Ohio Foreign Language Association (as Executive Council member and President), and my work on the national level with the American Council on the Teaching of French (on the Committee for Cultural Competence and as Regional Representative) were instrumental in my selection. I think that my service as review editor for the French Review, the most highly subscribed periodical in the United States on French language, literature, and culture may also have played a role in the selection.
“The Cultural Attaché also mentioned my contributions to publications such as the two chapters in France in the Twenty-FirstCentury: New perspectives / La France au XXIe siècle: nouvelles perspectives and my composition textbook Notez Bien!,” Toner adds.