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Two U of M Professors Will be Honored With the Order of French Academic Palms

For release: June 21, 2011
For press information, contact Dr. Will Thompson, 901-678-3372

Dr. Ralph Albanese, professor and chair of the University of Memphis Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and Dr. Will Thompson, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of French, will be formally presented as Chevaliers dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Knights of the Order of the Academic Palms) by Pascal Le Deunff, consul general of France in Atlanta.

The award will be presented June 25 in a ceremony on the U of M campus hosted by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. 

Dr. Ralph Albanese
Dr. Ralph Albanese
The French Academic Palms distinction, created by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808, is awarded to individuals throughout the world who have made substantial contributions to the promotion of French language and culture over the course of their careers. The University of Memphis is one of only a few institutions to have two professors recognized with this honor. 

Albanese, a respected scholar on both sides of the Atlantic, earned his doctorate from Yale University. His principal areas of specialization are 17th century French literature, socio-critique and the history of French education. In addition to serving on the editorial board of several professional journals, Albanese has been an executive committee member of the Modern Language Association’s Division on Seventeenth-Century French Literature. He was co-editor of a special issue of Yale French Studies on contemporary French education in 2008.

Among his many honors at the University of Memphis, Albanese has received the Willard Sparks Eminent Faculty Award, a Distinguished Research Award for his work in the humanities, and a Dunavant Professorship, and he was a co-recipient of the University’s Distinguished Research Award.

“I am deeply gratified that the French government awarded me the Academic Palms,” Albanese said. “Throughout my career, I have been motivated by a love for the French language and its culture. It’s reassuring to know that I’ve been successful in promoting French studies through my teaching and research.”

Dr. Will Thompson
Dr. Will Thompson
Thompson is serving his second term as vice president of the American Association of Teachers of French. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1989, the same year he joined the U of M faculty. His areas of specialization include 19th- and 20th-century French literature, contemporary French culture, and business French pedagogy. Thompson is secretary of the Tennessee Foreign Language Teaching Association and is a past recipient of the association’s Jacqueline Elliot Award for Excellence in Higher Education. He is a board member and past president of the Alliance Française de Memphis and director of the National French Contest for the state of Tennessee.

“It is a great honor to receive the Academic Palms, and to have received this award the same year as my colleague Ralph Albanese,” said Thompson. “It is certainly rewarding to be recognized for my work teaching and promoting the French language as well as French and Francophone culture. We are very proud that the University of Memphis is one of few institutions in the United States to have two current faculty members with this designation.”

For more information, contact Thompson at  or 901- 678-3372.

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