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Earning Academic Accolades From France

French ambassador bestows knighthood on USC College Dean Joseph Aoun and speaks on U.S.-Franco relations.

Earning Academic Accolades From France

Joseph Aoun, dean of USC College, has been named a chevalier, or knight, in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Ministry of Education.

Considered one of France’s oldest and most prestigious civic honors, the awards go to those who help promote French language, culture, education and the arts.

In recognition of Aoun’s academic achievements, Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United States, decorated Aoun at a ceremony April 3.

Susan Casden, a member of the USC College Board of Councilors, hosted the event at the Von KleinSmid Center.

“As a fellow Francophile, I believe that maintaining the French culture is important to our society, as well as strengthening relations with France,” Casden said.

“Dean Aoun is remarkable because his knowledge and understanding of the world is so broad,” she said. “He has a true international outlook, which is critical to USC’s growing international reach. This award is very well-deserved.”

In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte created the Palmes Académiques to reward devotion and accomplishment in teaching and scholarship. In 1955, the award was elevated to the status of an order.

“In France we put culture at the top of the criteria needed to succeed in life,” Levitte said. “I am privileged to bestow France’s highest honor in terms of culture on Dean Joseph Aoun.”

“Having traveled though so many continents, having been steeped in three cultures and having called this country home, I am very humbled by this honor,” said Aoun, a native of Lebanon who has spent much of his life in France and the United States.

The holder of the Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair, Aoun was appointed as the College’s 19th dean in June 2000. He is widely recognized for leading the continuing transformation of the College into a premier teaching and research institution.

USC trustee Ray Irani, president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, attended the event.

“Dean Aoun’s achievements in academic scholarship and, in recent years, to the rise of the College’s reputation are of great benefit to the university as a whole,” Irani said. “This award is a fitting tribute to the man behind our successful efforts to increase the level of excellence at the College.”

Earlier that day, Levitte spoke about French-American relations to an audience at the Doheny Memorial Library.

Co-moderated by Aoun and Geoffrey Cowan, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication, the lecture was sponsored by the College's Francophone Resource Center and the USC Center for Public Diplomacy, a partnership between the College’s School of International Relations and Annenberg.

Levitte addressed the ways France and the U.S. are cooperating to advance the peace process, saying the two countries are working together toward a successful outcome in the Middle East.

“For more than 200 years, there has been a lot of passion between the U.S. and France,” he said. “I see only reason to celebrate our friendship.”