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​Lawlor Awarded Knighthood by French Ministry of Education

The French Ministry of Education in Paris recently awarded Dr. Patricia M. Lawlor, Providence College professor of French, the honor of “Chevalier” in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques in recognition of “extraordinary contributions to the expansion and appreciation of French language and culture.”

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) is a French order of knighthood founded in the mid-19th century by Napoléon to honor eminent members of the University of Paris. 

Originally awarded only to French academics, the Palmes Académiques honor was later expanded to recognize major contributions to French national education and culture made by people of other countries, as well as by citizens of France.

This spring, PC will host a ceremony during which the consul general of France will formally confer knighthood on Lawlor. The program will take place on April 8 at 5:00 p.m. in Aquinas Lounge.

Lawlor, who was nominated by a French colleague at another institution, said her teaching is a reflection of PC’s mission, which encourages students to serve the greater community and emphasizes excellence in scholarship. 

“Knowing another language is direct access into another culture, another worldview, into understanding the other from within. Language, culture, and identity are inseparable, so when we learn another language we learn to view the world, and ourselves, through the eyes of people who are different from us,” said Lawlor.

Since joining the PC faculty in 1982, Lawlor has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the School of Criticism and Theory to pursue scholarly research.  She has published a book and multiple articles on 19th-century French literature.

Additionally, she established both an internship program for PC students who are French majors at the French-American School of Rhode Island and a chapter of the national French Honor Society on campus. She also served as chair of the College’s Department of Foreign Language Studies for three consecutive terms.

“But the very best highlight of my career here has been working with students. They are truly extraordinary, and I feel extremely privileged to be a part of their college experience,” she said.

Dedicated to scholarship

Lawlor lived in France for three years after she earned her master’s degree at the University of Paris. She returned to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in French studies at Boston University.

As a component of her doctoral studies, Lawlor taught one French course per semester, which led her to discover her passion for the profession.

She said, “I discovered that I loved teaching at the college level and that it was a wonderful complement to the scholarly research and writing required by a rigorous graduate program.”

“I was very fortunate to discover a profession that allows me to do what I love to do in an academic community,” said Lawlor.

Lawlor has taught a variety of courses during her career at PC. She currently teaches Beginning French, French Civilization, Advanced Conversation, and French Literature. She also taught the first-year literature component in the Development of Western Civilization Program for several years, and taught colloquia in the Liberal Arts Honors Program as well.

She served as the director of the Women’s Studies Program and taught the program’s first capstone course as well as the introductory course for many years.

Lawlor’s current research project is an interdisciplinary examination of the relationship between the poetry of Baudelaire and the painting of Delacroix, both revolutionary artists in 19th-century Paris.

Lawlor’s interdisciplinary approach to teaching fuses the technical aspects of the language with the culture. 

“Even though it is possible to get along almost anywhere in the world in English, our students who study foreign languages here understand that language is not only a tool that serves a pragmatic purpose; relating to other people in their language is a gesture that builds bridges, and an advantage both personally and professionally.”


-- Genevieve Marie Ilg ’14

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