USF Professor Awarded Major French Civilian Honor

The French Consul General in Miami presented Professor Gaetan Brulotte with one of France’s highest civilian honors.





By Barbara Melendez

      USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (March 27, 2014) – Philippe Létrilliart, Consul General of France in Miami, presented USF Distinguished University Professor Gaëtan Brulotte with the honor of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques yesterday. The presentation followed his talk on the topic “Contemporary Relations between France and Florida.”


Warm welcomes from College of Arts and Sciences Dean Eric Eisenberg, Provost Ralph Wilcox and Vice Provost Roger Brindley outlined USF’s global outlook.


Brindley, who serves as USF System associate vice president for USF World offered details about USF faculty and student engagement in France. There are 137 faculty members involved in research, teaching, mentoring, consulting, providing professional service or participants in conferences and 30 students from France currently enrolled. USF has 17 study abroad opportunities in France and exchange programs with five French universities.


In his introduction, Wilcox mentioned that Létrilliart previously held the position as head of the department in charge of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs before taking on his current position last September. He also served as first secretary at the Embassy of France in Havana and was the senior Advisor to the Embassy of France in La Paz.


Acknowledging “a very proud moment for Professor Brulotte and the university,” Wilcox took a moment to present the Consul General with what he jokingly described as the “Order of the Silver Bull” a memento Létrilliart promised to display in his office.


Létrilliart in turn acknowledged special guests in the audience of students, faculty and members of Tampa Bay’s French community. Among the guests were Martine Johnston, education officer with the French Consulate in Miami, Jean-Charles Faust, honorary consul of France and president of the French American Business Council of West Florida (FRAMCO), Rose-Marie Magriby, vice president of international relations, FRAMCO, Tampa-Le Havre Sister Cities and Brigitte van den Hove-Smith, member of the Board France-Florida Foundation for the Arts in Naples, Florida.


In his overview of France’s long history with Florida, he covered the first French settlement near Jacksonville and went on to talk about Florida’s many sister cities, including Tampa which is paired with Le Havre, Haute-Normandie and Miami, where Létrilliart is based, with Nice, Province-Alpes-Côte D’Azur. Emphasizing France’s connection to Florida’s business, political and cultural landscape, Létrilliart noted that there are 450 French companies in Florida providing upwards of 20,000 jobs.


An informal question and answer period brought up the issue of France’s bullet trains and the country’s expertise with building high-speed rail systems to which Létrilliart said that Florida, “being such a flat state” would work well for such a train. “We have the technology for this.”


World Languages Department Chair Stephan Schindler then introduced Brulotte, who teaches French and francophone literature.


“I am very pleased and moved by this extraordinary show of support, which testifies to the values that France recognizes in the humanities and confirms that the work we do here at USF in French studies has meaningful impact way beyond our campus,” Brulotte said looking out at the audience that included all of his colleagues from World Languages. Among them was Christine Probes, recipient of Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques last year.


Honored to receive the oldest and one of the highest awards conferred on civilians by the French government, Brulotte took the opportunity to ask the question, “Why study French nowadays?”


In his reflective answer he stated, “There is something special about the French way of thinking, the French way of life and the French perception and understanding of things and the world that is worth getting familiar with. Studying French certainly means learning, in the process, the famous French critical thinking, which is a cultural hallmark of French approach to everything –and sometimes French are perceived as being too critical, which often they are– but their constant reflective skepticism and their spirit of inquiry have helped them bring significant contributions to the civilization process throughout history, and they continue to do so, let’s just mention that in the 20th and 21st centuries, they have won sixteen Nobel Prizes in literature alone, not to mention dozens in other disciplines such as medicine, math and physics.”


He also noted that “Bloomberg Rankings recently put French on top for business, right after English and Chinese. French has native speakers in every region on earth. There are over 50 countries with a French-speaking heritage. France also attracts more tourists than any other country: 83 million in 2012 versus 67 million in the US.”


The author of a dozen books, Brulotte’s fiction works have won more than fifteen literary awards and some have been adapted for cinema, television, stage and radio. He is also the subject of numerous college and university courses and critical essays. Brulotte received USF’s Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence in2003, Outstanding Research Achievement Award in 2004, and the university’s highest title, distinguished university professor in 2005.


Eisenberg closed the talk and decoration ceremony with his, now customary, “Allez les taureux,” French for “Go Bulls.”


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563