NEW YORK — Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, was awarded the medal of Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor at a ceremony at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy here on February 9. The French ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, presented the insignia to Gregorian in recognition of his three-decade effort to strengthen Franco-American relations, advance links between French and American institutions of higher education and promote the study of French culture and language.
The Legion of Honor (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur), France’s premier award, recognizes eminent accomplishments of service to France. The Order is made up of three ranks (chevalier, officier, commandeur) and two high offices (grand officier and grand croix).
Napoleon Bonaparte established the Legion of Honor, considered France’s highest honor, in 1802 to reward extraordinary accomplishments and outstanding services rendered to France. In 1908 Andrew Carnegie, the founder of the Corporation and many other sister institutions, received the Commander of the Legion of Honor when he was president of the New York Peace Society. He was given the award for helping build the Peace Palace in The Hague and for being “a good citizen of all the world.” At the ceremony, Carnegie said, “I do find with every successive year of my life that I take higher and higher views, that I think more and more of humanity, that I have brighter and brighter visions of the future.”
Araud noted that Gregorian, like Carnegie, shared France’s democratic ideals of liberty and equality.
“Vartan Gregorian is a visionary and a living example of the modern man of letters, for whom education and knowledge is the key to opportunity and peace,” said Araud. “It is through cultural exchanges and by opening new pathways of cooperation that we promote understanding in the world. Vartan Gregorian has been a true partner in our advancement of dual language education in public schools. His love for the French language and culture has been a pleasure to discover.”
“I am fortunate and most grateful to France and to your government for bestowing this singular honor upon me,” said Gregorian. “I owe much to France and to French culture because they provided the foundation for my formal education, starting in Beirut at the Collège Arménien. Throughout my youth and career, the ideals of the Enlightenment and the legacy of the French Revolution — liberté, égalité, fraternité — have been sources of inspiration for me.”