Professor awarded one of France's highest honors in the arts

October 3, 2022

RESEARCH & INNOVATION

Françoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick, professor of French and film studies, already felt humbled to have received some of France’s most prestigious awards for culture and arts. And she was further honored this summer when she was awarded the rank of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by France’s Minister of Culture, an accolade that rewards those who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to the arts or literature.

“I was surprised and delighted,” Ravaux-Kirkpatrick said. “I was not expecting it at all.”

Ravaux-Kirkpatrick came to the University in 1973 and teaches contemporary French literature and culture and French film. She is highly regarded across the University, Virginia, and France as the co-director of the acclaimed French Film Festival, created in 1993. The University and festival are well-known and celebrated in France, she said.

The festival gives her students greater appreciation of cinematic arts, possibilities of careers in filmmaking — not just as directors or actors — and, above all, she said, real experience as they work with professionals and interns from France, a hands-on learning environment which underscores her own approach to teaching. 

“Since my arrival at UR I have involved students in actual projects,” she said. “What students need is not to be taught language and culture, but to participate in real situations and react in the foreign language.” Ravaux-Kirkpatrick initiated the University’s current Intensive French program and the Summer French Study Abroad Program, which she directed for several years.

Among her other honors, in 2017, she was elected as a voting member of the Académie des Techniques et des Arts du Cinéma, the French equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2011, she was awarded The Médaille Beaumarchais, the highest award bestowed by the French Writers Guild. In 2003, she received the rank of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs. And in 1994, she received the rank of Knight of the Order of Academic Palms from the French government, with a medal award by the French Ministry of National Education. 

“We live in a world that is very interrelated, and learning other languages and cultures helps break down barriers,” she said. “It expands our horizons and opens minds.”