On May 21, 2018, UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Professor Emeritus Dr. Mel B. Yoken was presented France’s highest honor for his career studying French language and literature. Dr. Yoken received the French Legion of Honor award from Consul General of France Valery Freland on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron at the Residence de France in Cambridge.
“This award brings me even closer to France,” Dr. Yoken said “This country has given me so much. I met my wife of 42 years at an American Association of French Teachers conference and have met people and made friends all over the world due to my connection to the French language.”
The Legion of Honor award was created by Napoleon in 1802.
Dr. Yoken retired from teaching French language and literature at UMass Dartmouth, but is still actively helping students studying French and is the director of the Boivin Center of French language and Literature as well as the current program chair and former president of The Claire T. Carney Library Associates. “I’ll be doing this forever,” he said.
Dr. Yoken began his career in teaching in 1966 at UMass Dartmouth, then called Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute, and has been with the institution for 52 years. Yoken states that he has directly taught and interacted with over 16,000 students at UMass Dartmouth and many still contact him decades after they graduate.
The French Legion of Honor is awarded to select individuals who have made an impact on France and French culture. During the Consul General’s speech, he extolled Yoken’s devotion to teaching the French language, culture, and literature, as well as his work in exchange programs, his prolific career as a writer dealing with French subjects, and his tremendous support and promotion of the French language.
Dr. Yoken is an honorary lifelong member of the Academy of American Poets and the American Association of French Teachers. His voluminous archive of letters with French luminaries and others are featured at Brown University. Yoken has previously been honored by the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association, the American Association of Teachers of French, and the New York State Language Association.