Professor becomes latest UMSL recipient of award from French government

by | Jul 23, 2015

Jeanne Zarucchi, professor of art history and French at UMSL, received the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
Jeanne Zarucchi, professor of art history and French at UMSL, received the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jeanne Zarucchi, professor of art history and French at UMSL, received the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jeanne Zarucchi, professor of art history and French at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, is the recipient of the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques. That is “Knight of the Order of Academic Palms” if your French is rusty.

The distinct honor is given in recognition of educators who have promoted French culture and language. The origin of the award can be traced back to Napoleon Bonaparte, who created it in 1808.

Zarucchi came to the attention of the French Consulate in Chicago for her work on a website on French art at the St. Louis Art Museum.

“[The website] contributes to the Consulate’s mission of promoting French language and culture,” said Zarucchi. “No one had ever proposed such a project before, to create a free, bilingual web resource that would encourage high school and college language teachers and students to learn about the outstanding collection of French art at the museum.”

Her website is more than just pretty pictures. The unique interface allows students and teachers to not only view the exquisite works of art, but also to learn the historical context in which they were created.

“I think that’s what makes it so interesting to use,” said Zarucchi. “It allows teachers and students of either art or language to put the work into a broader context and understand more about that time period.”

Zarucchi’s work with the art museum reflects the larger practices of the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies at UMSL. “[The department] is different than a lot of other places,” said Ron Yasbin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UMSL. “They teach not only the language, but the culture as well.”

Zarucchi’s site has drawn over 28,000 visitors and counting.  She also has a forthcoming article about the project in The French Review, which is the referred journal of The American Association of Teachers of French.

“The website has been very well received,” said Birgit Noll, chair of the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies at UMSL. “Especially by teachers in the St. Louis Community. They love to have this authentic material available to use in the classroom.”

Dr. Zarucchi, who will celebrate her 30th anniversary at UMSL this fall, is the third UMSL professor to win the award, joining fellow knights Marcus Allen (1972) and Ruth Suzanne Hendrickson (2012).

“It’s really a thrill to receive this award,” said Zarucchi. “It’s very humbling to think that my website would be considered by the French government to be worthy of this recognition.”


This story was written by Rob Barrett, a UMSL student pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing.

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