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Boivin Center To Celebrate Its 35th Anniversary In 2020

 As I finish my 21st year as director of the Boivin Center of French Language and Culture at UMass Dartmouth, I have a great deal of pride and satisfaction in what the center has accomplished over the past 35 years. The then Southeastern Massachusetts University established the Omer E. and Laurette M. Boivin Center for French Language and Culture with a $100,000 endowment from the 95-year-old Fall River doctor on April 11, 1985. I was there that glorious day with a gathering of my university colleagues, French dignitaries, representatives from numerous French organizations, and many school officials from the region. Dr. Boivin had been the chief of urology at St. Anne's Hospital until he reached the age of 70, and was educated in French in Canada. He wanted to bring the French language and culture to the fore in Southeastern Massachusetts. He also wanted to show that French was the lingua franca in the world alongside English in the arts, business, technology, hospitality, medicine and diplomacy, and he focused on SMU to do just that. Après tout (After all), he was born to French-Canadian parents, and had lived in Fall River all his life. For me, a lifelong friend of the Boivins, the moment was a dream come true. Over the years, we have given many scholarships for needy students studying French in the States, in France or in Quebec. We have interviewed Franco-Americans in our region to document the positive impact these hard-working and industrious individuals have had on this region in the 20th and 21" centuries. In addition, we offer a certificate program in international marketing and French. We have collaborated with other centers so we can bring our message to many other members of the university and community. Our very popular, acclaimed cultural program has been highlighted by too many outstanding luminaries (Quebec writers, Francophile writers, French authors, Francophone scholars, French cordons bleus, chanteurs and chanteuses, etc.) to list here. In December of last year, the preeminent writer and New York Times bureau chief in Paris, Elaine Sciolino, graced our stage with her new book, The Seine. The highly anticipated program took place in the Charlton Business College Auditorium. A reception and book signing followed the talk. Gaston Déry, the celebrated Quebecois naturalist, gave a virtual speech on biodiversity in September, and the program was a great success. Succinctly, the Boivin Center continues to grow and meet new and even greater challenges. Finally, my hope for the next 35 years is to strengthen our Center with new and increased membership, and enhance awareness of the global impact of France, Quebec and other francophone countries in our present-day society.

Mel B. Yoken, Ph.D. Yoken is chancellor professor emeritus of French language and literature at UMass Dartmouth,
printed in the MaFLA newsletter end of year 2020

Dr. Omer E. Boivin and his wife Laurette would be so proud!


Dr. Mel Yoken is the consummate human being...his development and nurturing of the Boivin Center is yet another example of his educational leadership in bringing cultural events to the surrounding community.  I have been honored to have been personally invited to many of the Center's offerrings, have been immensely enriched each time I have attended, and have witnessed the passion that Dr. Yoken brings in everything he is involved with.  Let me also add that his wife Cynthia, and three sons, Andrew, David and Jonathan reflect his commitment to excellence through their loving support.  Dr. Yoken has been instrumental in my returning to some of the excellent literature that I had read as an undergraduate at U Mass Dartmouth (Southeastern Massachusetts University) and I cannot thank him enough for his encouragement.  He is the ultimate educator and better friend.

-Glen G. Chandler, B.A. Sociology (SMU 1976) with Academic Distinction.

"The Boivin Center has dedicated itself to serving and enriching the culture of the Franco-American Southeastern Massachusetts community for the past 30 years, and I sincerely hope, it continues to do for the next 30."
- Judy Barry

"Betty and I want to thank you, Dr. Yoken, for all you have done to bring quality events and brilliant speakers to the Boivin Center.  Over the years, you have introduced us to many luminaries whom we would never have been able to see, hear and meet ourselves.  You have truly introduced us to a new world of cultural life which we truly appreciate.  Vivent le Centre Boivin et le Docteur Yoken."
- Dr. Willam Abesh, Mrs. Betty Abesh

"When I had the pleasure of presenting a talk on Paris for a Boivin Center audience last November 4 (2013), I was delighted to see the hall full of people interested in France and French civilization. From what I learned about the Center's schedule of programs, it clearly makes an imporant contribution to the area's cultural life. And we at UMass Amherst, unfortunately a bit too far away, can only admire (and envy) it!"
- Charles Rearick, professor emeritus of History, UMass Amherst

"I found the Boivin Center a vital part not only of your University but also of your community, since it interconnects with a wider public. Numerous prestigious speakers from the area and outside come to visit your campus thanks to this dynamic Center. The reputation of the Boivin Center goes way beyond your campus and region. It is well known for its activities at least in the Northeast of the United States, in Canada and France. Needless to say that it has an international reputation."
- Gaëtan Brulotte, Ph.D

"The Center has flourished under Dr. Yoken's leadership . . . There are many who reside in this greater New Bedford/Fall River area of French Canadian descent or those who are passionate about the French language and culture. The Boivin Center answers a need and fulfills a desire to have a greater realization and enjoyment of these very attributes to our heritage and life."
- Nancy Cronan, R.N.

"The enthusiastic devotion of Dr. Mel Yoken to French culture is an added plus for the Boivin Center and its raison d'être, which is the promotion of French in both an academic and community setting. Yoken and the Center have done much to foster interest in French culture in our area. We appreciate the Center and its director and hope to see its continued good work in the future."
- Homer Depin

"The Director of the Boivin Center, Dr. Mel Yoken, uses his professional knowledge of this world and his personal contacts to bring luminaries in various fields of culture, literature and cuisine. Who can forget Julia Child's performance in a packed auditorium? In all my years at the University, I have never seen such an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd ... Everyone on campus is aware of Dr. Yoken's enthusiasm for all aspects of French culture. This élan has been transmitted to the Center and to its activities. The Center has indeed fulfilled all of its goals under Dr. Yoken's leadership."
- Giulio Massano, Ph.D.

"I have been 'selling' French all of my 35 years of teaching, but the Boivin Center has reignited a spark. It provides me with an opportunity to bring back my newly acquired information on French language and culture to the classroom, as well as those I encounter in my everyday life. Classroom teachers need help in promoting the French language ... The feeling of rejuvenation and enthusiasm for French that the Boivin Center spreads can only be wonderfully contagious and does create very positive outcomes for French advocacy."
- Yvette Parks

"The Boivin Center at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has presented many programs which I attended and for which I am grateful. These programs have provided me with a much appreciated opportunity to learn, to meet interesting, new people, to socialize with others sharing an interest in, and to grow with my own personal fondness for, the French language and culture."
- Charles Pelissier

"The Boivin Center of French Language and Culture improves United States relations with France, Canada and other French-speaking countries. For example, I attended a 2001 Boivin session in which the late French diplomat and writer, Pierre de Boisdeffre, bestowed on Prof. Mel Yoken--and director of the Boivin Center--the Palmes Academiques, the highest honor that France ever confers on individuals of other nationalities ... The Boivin Center is making Americans more affectionate toward the Francophone world. Under its present leadership, it cannot help but bring immeasurable results in that direction."
- Peter Sandler

"From the perspective of a professional economist, former Dean of the College of Business and now Chancellor Professor Emeritus of the University, I see the Boivin Center as a means of not only exposing students to all aspects of French language and culture, but of galvanizing the Franco-American community at large--the second largest ethnic group in this area--to commitment to causes crucial to the University... Under the able leadership of Professor Yoken, the Boivin Center provides the University the opportunity to continue this invaluable service."
- Richard Ward, Ph.D.

"I have had the privilege of attending many programs sponsored by the Boivin Center at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Every program that I have attended has been of exceptional quality. I have been entertained, informed, and enlightened by the various subjects that the Center has brought to the University and to the General Public. I hope to attend more French cultural programs in the future, which have been a great source of understanding and information for me as I pursue my family heritage in order to pass it along to my children. UMass Dartmouth should be proud to know that through the efforts of their Boivin Center the French culture lives and those of French heritage are grateful for its existence."
- Mary L. Bennett

"As past President of the Club Richelieu and having been named Franco American of the Year (1998) by the Franco American Civic League, I make an appeal that the Boivin Center continues its fine programs. I have attended many of them with great interest and pride. I knew Dr. Boivin, personally. He was a member of the Club Richelieu. I know that my sentiments are the same as his. Certainly, his plan was that the program would have perpetuity. The Boivin Center informs ... keeps alive ... a celebration of the heritage and accomplishments of the French community. Long live the Boivin Center! Vive la langue Française! Vive les Franco Americains!"
- Paul A. Dumais

"It was my pleasure and delight to be present at a momentous event at the Boivin Center of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, along with many individuals of distinction. At that time, Dr. Mel Yoken, President of the Center, received a prestigious award for his many and varied accomplishments, from the Ambassador Pierre de Boisdeffre representing the French government. The fact that the French government saw fit to send such a distinguished representative across the world to recognize Dr. Yoken speaks volumes for the quality and the value of the Boivin Center."
- Dr. Irving Fradkin

"I have attended several programs at the Boivin Center at UMass, Dartmouth. I have found them to be very informative and interesting. They have given me an opportunity to broaden my knowledge of French culture and modern day happenings. I certainly hope that these programs will continue in the excellent manner that they have in the past. I feel that they are a very important adjunct to the total educational environment of this excellent university."
- Robert Paradis, President, Richelieu Club of Fall River

"Everyone knows that U. Mass Dartmouth is vital to the education of our citizenry and others. But to those of us that are not students it is indeed beneficial to be able to enjoy the programs offered by the University. Most notably the Boivin Center has had excellent presentations. I for one will never forget having seen and met Julia Child and French Ambassador Pierre de Boisdeffre. I wish the Boivin Center continued success."
- Rita T. Raymond

"The French language and culture are alive and flourishing at the Boivin Center of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. The Center is a strong link to the French world. American too often have very wrong ideas about France and the French and the Boivin Center serves to correct these errors. Under the able and energetic leadership of its director, Professor Dr. Mel Yoken, the Boivin Center is a magnet for all those who seek to increase their knowledge and appreciation of all things French. Drawing on all aspects of the Francophone world -- novelists, poets, filmmakers, entertainers, politicians, government leaders, and world-famous personalities - the Boivin Center provides opportunities for young people to encounter the kaleidoscope and multifaceted reality of a different culture. I have come away from each event stimulated and enriched for having attended."
- Robert Stavrakas

"The Franco-American communities of the Massachusetts SouthCoast still reflect their adherence to the traditions and culture of their ancestors since the mid-19th and 20th centuries. However, on a higher intellectual level Le Centre Boivin at UMD is the linchpin, which consolidates the many fraternal, social, artistic and literary societies of the area into a common bond -- the love and usage of the French language. Through the enduring efforts of Professors Lew Kamm, Kevin Hargreaves and Mel Yoken, Le Centre Boivin was created in 1985 and endowed through the generosity of Dr. Omer E. and Laurette M. Boivin. Their legacy benefits the college community with its foreign exchange student program as well as the general populace with its free access to lectures by national and international authors, French and Canadian exhibits and films and performing artists. I recall the visit on campus of a descendent of le Marquis de Lafayette, former Senator from Illinois Paul Simon, authors Jean Francois Somain, Marie Clair Blais, French chef Julia Child, and the Acadian 'Le Grand Dérangement'. The highlight of the year 2001 was the awarding of 'les palmes académiques' to Dr. Mel Yoken by a former member of L'Académie Française Pierre de Boisdeffre. Mel distinguished himself with is indefatigable pursuit of the preservation of 'la belle langue' and the publication of 'ses oeuvres' of which his 'Entretiens Québecois' received critical acclaim. Not only did he bring honor and distinction to UMD, but he also created opportunities for the Francophones of Bristol County to expand their knowledge and practical applications of the great traditions of the French language and culture."
- Lillian B. Lamoureux, founding member of the Board of Governors

"I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Mel Yoken and the Boivin Center for its support and involvement in co-sponsoring two wonderful events with the Center for Jewish Culture. Students, faculty and the public all praised the film 'The Children of Chabannes' and filmmaker Lisa Gossels; in addition to the film 'Sisters in Resistance' and filmmaker Maia Weschler. Both speakers impressed the audience by taking the time to directly answer their questions and meet with them after the presentations. I also want to express my strong support for all the Boivin Center's activities. The programs that you have arranged involving distinguished American and French citizens have had a great impact on the cultural and intellectual life of our University community. I fully expect that your enthusiasm for and commitment to the academic and cultural life of the University will continue and that we can expect many more interesting programs in the future."
- Professor Lewis Dars, Co-Director, Center for Jewish Culture

"Since childhood I have loved all things French and have always enjoyed visiting France.  I am unable to travel to France as often as I would wish.  So, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to "visit" France via the wonderful programs that the Boivin Center presents at no cost to the public.  One of my favorite programs was this year's enchanting musical evening with Sophie Michaux.  I just sat back, closed my eyes and let the magical voice of Michaux transport me to an ageless Paris where all things are possible!  The Boivin Center is an amazing resource for learning about and appreciating French culture from music to cuisine to art and beyond.  I look forward to the next petit cadeau from the Boivin Center.  Bravo Boivin Center!" 
- Margo Moore

"Kudos for Prof. Mel B. Yoken for all he does to enrich the cultural experience in the entire region thanks to his brilliant leadership and unwavering devotion as long-time director of the Boivin Center for French Language and Culture."
- Prof. Vernon Ingraham, Professor Emeritus of English


It was my privilege some forty years ago to have the opportunity for two years to teach French at was then SMU (Southeastern Massachusetts University), and what is now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.  I had the pleasure then of meeting Professor Mel Yoken who also taught French.  I have followed Prof. Yoken's work over the years, and especially over the past 20 during his directorship of the Boivin Center.  I have attended many of his programs, and can't stress enough that I am indeed very impressed by his outstanding, inspiring work.  I wish him well in the forthcoming years.

-Ingrid Kisliuk, Ph.D. Tufts University, 1976

Published Author


It is such a wonderful honor to know Dr. Mel Yoken, his wife Cindy and their family through the Boivin Center at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Mel continues to impress me with his creativity in providing outstanding, cutting-edge diverse programming to increase access to learning that appeals to everyone.

Andrea McLaughlin, PhD Candidate, BMEBT, UMASSD


When I retired in 2013, I joined Second Half to take French, and it was through the Second Half that I learned about the wonderful programs sponsored by the Boivin Center.  I've made it a point to come to some every year, and I certainly enjoy the cultural enrichment they offer.  Whether it be French cooking (Jacques Pépin), French history, the place of the French in American history (Lafayette) or just a program of general interest to a Francophile, the programs are interesting, informative and fun.

Upcoming in December (2019), I'm looking forward to the program about the Seine.

Janet Campbell

The Boivin Center, under Prof. Mel Yoken's able and competent leadership, continues to offer the University's students, faculty and communities of Fall River and New Bedford, outstanding and enlightening programs.  May the Center continue its outstanding contributions for many years to come.

Merci beaucoup, Boivin Center

Prof. Charles White