French government honors two Yale staff members for educational initiatives

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Honored with the medal of Chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques on June 18 were Karen de Fur, Nancy Ruther of Yale, Gail McKenna, and Ruth Koizim of Yale.

Two Yale staff members — Ruth G. Koizim and Nancy L. Ruther — were honored with the medal of Chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques on June 18. In addition, the supervisor of world languages for the New Haven Public School District also received the honor for a language program she established with the support of Yale.

Antonin Baudry, cultural counselor of the French Embassy in New York, conferred the medal of Chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques on Koizim, a senior lector in French, and Ruther, associate director of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. Also honored were Karen de Fur, supervisor of world languages for the New Haven Public Schools, and Gail McKenna, a former high school French in South Windsor, Connecticut.

The award of the Palmes Academiques recognizes Koizim’s teaching expertise as well as her ability to transmit both knowledge and passion for her subject areas to the variety of scholars she mentors. She has taught French at Harvard and Yale, receiving awards at both schools for teaching excellence. In addition to teaching French at Yale, Koizim is a mentor and teacher trainer. She has also coordinated proficiency and placement testing in French, and been an advisor on study and work opportunities in Francophone countries. She is currently working with a French journalist on a book project exploring motivations for the study of French as a foreign language.

Ruther was honored with the medal for her contribution to global education and her commitment to French-American academic exchanges. She has served as associate director of The MacMillan Center since 1988 and as lecturer in political science at Yale since 1994. From 1981 to 1988, she served as associate professor and associate director of the Institute of Public Service International at the University of Connecticut. She began her career as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development serving in La Paz, Bolivia. Ruther was a key player in the development of a high-level agreement between the School District of Toulouse (Académie de Toulouse), the Department of Education of the State of Connecticut and the French Embassy, an accord that supports the creation of innovative projects between the United States and France.
Ruther’s longstanding research interest is the interaction of federal policy and the international capacity of the U.S. higher education system. In 2006, she completed a background study for the National Academy of Sciences on the HEA Title VI and Fulbright Hayes programs. Her monograph, “U.S. Government and Higher Education:  Bridging the Gap in International Expertise,” was released as a MacMillan Center Working Paper. At Yale, Ruther serves on numerous campus committees related to international, area, and language studies, as well as degrees, programs and backstops HEA Title VI grants at the MacMillan Center. She represents Yale with the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs and served on the Group of Advisors of the National Security Education Program from its inception to 1998. She has served on several non-profit boards, including Strategies for International Development, based in La Paz, Bolivia, and in Washington, D.C. (1996 to present). 
With support from the French Embassy, colleagues at Yale and the New Haven Board of Education, de Fur established the first Public French Immersion School in Connecticut at King Robinson Inter-district Magnet School: an IB World School.
The Ordre des Palmes Academiques originated with Napoleon Bonaparte.  By a decree of March 17, 1808, he established the honorary titles of Titulaire, Officier de l’Universite, and Officier d’Académie as awards for devotion and accomplishment in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and research.  In 1955, the Palmes Universitaires was officially raised to the status of a ministerial order. Three ranks were provided: Commandeur, Officier, and Chevalier.

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