“Bonjour! Ça va?” Everytime I walk into my French 204 class, I’m greeted by a wave of positivity and a big smile followed by a frenzy of French words that have finally started to register in my mind after three and a half terms. Cathy Yandell, W. I. and Hulda F. Daniell Professor of French Literature, Language and Culture professor, has gained a reputation where anyone who knows her will be ready to testify to her greatness, love and resilience.
Her distinguished work extends far and beyond French language into the cultural understanding of art and history in the Francophone world. Now, her work, which complements her vibrant, artistic personality, has finally earned her recognition. This week our very own Cathy Yandell received knighthood from the French government in the venerable Ordre des Palmes académiques.
This prestigious honor is given to an individual who has shown excellence in promoting the study of French language and culture. The ceremony was held on Tuesday, September 24 and was attended by numerous professors from different departments, the President of the college, Steven Pozkanser, Vice President and Treasurer Frederick Rogers, and multiple other administrative heads.
Additionally, about a third of the people in attendance at the ceremony comprised of students who wanted to share this exciting moment with her. The amount of people in attendance itself showed Yandel’s reputation, not only as a professor but as a person.
The knighthood was officiated by an official from the French consulate in Chicago who also later joined a panel on the burning of the Notre-Dame Cathedral and gave a riveting speech in Yandel’s honor. The ceremony ended with Yandell saying a few words after receiving the honor.
“I have been told I need to say a few words so here we go.”
She proceeded to thank her friend who nominated her for the award without her knowledge and to President Pozkanser who sent in a glorious recommendation for Yandell, also without her knowledge. She expressed the shock she felt when she received an email from the French government congratulating her on her achievement, followed by joy and gratitude.
“I looked at the email saying I will be knighted and I was so shocked,” said Yandell. “I checked the email address multiple times, maybe they sent it to the wrong person. I kept thinking, are you sure this is meant for me? But now I believe it was real after all.”
This high honor is unlikely to surprise anyone who has taken a class with her or spoken with her outside class (she probably will agree to speak in English if you can’t say more than “Bonjour”). So a big congratulations to Cathy Yandell, and a request to only address her as ‘chevalier’ Cathy and nothing else.