Solid French Connection

A farewell visit from the Consul General of France in Miami includes a lecture and presentation of one of France’s highest civilian awards.


France Consul General Gael de Maisonneuve pinned the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques award on USF Professor Christine McCall Probes. Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News



By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (April 11, 2013) – University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Eric Eisenberg and USF System Senior Vice President for Global Affairs and International Research Karen A. Holbrook welcomed Gaël de Maisonneuve, Consul General of France in Miami yesterday in a farewell visit before he leaves his position this summer. 

He gave a lecture on “450 Years of French History in Florida” and presented USF Professor Christine McCall Probes, with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, one of the highest awards conferred on civilians by the French government.

After a friendly exchange of warm sentiments and gifts with President Genshaft, de Maisonneuve took the audience on an express ride through the centuries of France’s connections to Florida. He began with the arrival of the explorer René de Goulaine de Laudonnière and the navigator Jean Ribault, the first French citizens to set foot in Florida in 1562. France’s very first settlement in the United States in 1564 was near what is now Jacksonville.

A series of forts, settlements, communities, businesses and linkages that continue through to the present made it quite evident that the ties between France and Florida are deep-rooted. The influence of French architectural training is visible throughout the Tampa Bay region and other parts of Florida. Iconic buildings such as the Vizcaya, Ringling and Dali Museums are just three of the examples he highlighted. The names of many cities and towns throughout Florida owe their names to French settlers, Pass-a-Grille, Normandy Island and many more.


As Consul General, de Maisonneuve’s duties include looking after the French community in Florida and fostering friendly ties between the two nations. He said celebrations of France’s connections to Florida began in 2012 and continue through 2015.


Saying he was very pleased to have Probes join “this nice family” of award recipients, de Maisonneuve pinned the medal that has been presented to only seven other Americans. Probes is a research scholar and professor of French literature. She teaches a French composition course as well as courses on literature of the Renaissance.

Genshaft presented the Consul with a copy of a 1703 Florida map from USF’s Special Collections, “symbolizing our long history,” she said. de Maisonneuve gave Genshaft the book, Paris in Color, by Nichole Robertson.


USF has 18 education abroad programs in France, 25 students from France and 158 professors from the College of Art and Sciences and the College of The Arts engaged with France.


As the program came to an end, courtesy of Dean Eisenberg, de Maisonneuve leaves with a new slogan, Allez les taureaux – French for Go Bulls.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.