Pr. Lionel Cuillé, Director of Centre Francophone at Webster University awarded the French Palmes Académiques
St Louis (MO). Speech by Consul General of France Vincent Floreani on the occasion of the presentation of the insigna of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques to Professor Lionel Cuillé, Director of the Centre Francophone at Webster University.
St Louis, January 12, 2017
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students of Webster University,
Dear Honorary Consul of France Henry Biggs,
Dear Friends of the Centre Francophone,
Dear Professor Cuillé,
It is a great pleasure for me to be back to the great and beautiful city of St Louis for this wonderful occasion of presenting Mr. Lionel Cuillé with the insignia of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques.
Before proceeding with the ceremony, I would like to say a few words about the award I have the privilege of bestowing upon you, dear Lionel Cuillé.
The order of the “Palmes académiques” was created in 1808 by Napoleon to honor “teaching and the development of knowledge”. It is one of France’s most prestigious distinctions presented to scholars by the French government.
The bestowal of the “Palmes académiques” is for us, a declaration of admiration and of thanks to those who have dedicated much of their lives, work and talent to the knowledge, analysis and understanding of French culture.
You are, dear Lionel Cuillé, an ambassador of the French language and Francophonie. Your impressive career and lifelong passion for French culture are truly exceptional, and this award is well deserved.
After graduating from the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure and obtaining the Agrégation de lettres modernes, you decided to work in the United States. You first became the cultural director of Alliance française de Saint-Louis in 2002. Then, between 2005 and 2012, you were a visiting lecturer at Washington University. Your area of research is the twentieth and twenty-first centuries French poetry. You have published articles in this area and have created an online poetry review that brings together poets and literary critics from France and the US.
Since 2012, you have been a professor and the Director of the Centre francophone at Webster University. The Center was created in 2012 thanks to the generosity of Jane Robert to whom I would like to express my warmest thanks. The goal of the Center is to promote French and Francophone cultures to Webster University and the whole Saint Louis area. It is particularly important as this beautiful city has one of the strongest French heritages in the United States.
St. Louis was founded in 1764 by French fur-traders, and was named after a sainted French king. It was nicknamed “the Paris of the West” during pioneering days. Nowadays, this French heritage is still present throughout the city, from the Old Courthouse to the City Hall that was modeled after the Hotel de Ville in Paris, from the St. Louis Union Station that was inspired by the French fortress of Carcassonne to the Soulard Neighborhood that hosts one of the nation’s largest Mardi Gras celebrations. It is important to maintain this French-American connection in Saint-Louis and the Center is a tremendous help.
Your efforts at Webster include the traditional components of teaching French language and culture to upcoming generations as well as the pursuit of quality French literature research. You also facilitate and encourage community involvement.
Over the years, you have managed to diversify the activities of the Center through partnerships with the different cultural, academic and francophone groups in Saint Louis and prestigious local institutions
You are also committed to presenting a modern and global vision of Francophonie. Your dynamic use of social media has increased the attendance of cultural events and brought together Francophile groups, French expats, French and international students and French teachers.
Dear Lionel Cuillé, thanks to your passion and dedication, our cooperation is booming. In just a few years, the center has become one of the main destinations for enhancement of knowledge and learning development. You are active across all spectrum of our culture. As an organizer, a host, a supporter and a volunteer, the range of your activities is limitless. You promote professional workshops, cultural events and projects, screenings, film festivals, exhibits, conferences, symposia, essay competitions and even social events that bring together the St. Louis community and beyond.
Thanks to your hard work, the Centre francophone of Webster University has just been included within the Centres d’Excellence network. This prestigious group gathers around twenty leading US universities that benefit from grants from the French Governement, in order to ensure a strong cultural and scientific presence.
As I mentioned, our cooperation is thriving and I plan to be back soon in Saint Louis to launch France Alumni USA. France Alumni is an online platform dedicated to American residents who have completed part or all of their studies in France. This platform connects alumni and enables them to maintain a link to the French language and culture. It also gives them access to employment and internship opportunities that will leverage their time in France to foster international careers.
Now, dear friends, I would like to officially recognize professor Lionel Cuillé for all his accomplishments for which he deserves this distinguished award.
Monsieur Lionel Cuillé, au nom du ministre de l’Education Nationale, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques./.