October 30, 2008
A centuries-old tradition of the prestigious Académie française has reached out all the way to Quebec and directly into the halls of the School. Philippe Beaussant, appointed a member of the illustrious institution in November 2007, has invited Marie-Éva de Villers, Director of the Quality of Communication Centre at HEC Montréal, to join his Comité de l’épée.
“When Philippe Beaussant contacted me last winter to invite me to join his Committee, I was both surprised and delighted,” explains Ms. de Villers. “I immediately accepted his offer. The position is rather symbolic, of course. Our mission is to rally as many people as possible around us to work on defending and promoting the French language throughout the world.”
When a new member is appointed to the Académie, he or she creates a Comité de l'épée to symbolize his or her priority concerns. Philippe Beaussant, after publishing several novels, founding a Baroque music troupe in Versailles and directing a theatre company, has now committed himself to defending the French language in France and throughout the world. Consequently, he has invited major figures from different French-speaking parts of the world to help him. The Committee includes Jacques de Decker, Secretary General of the Académie royale de Belgique, Jean Starobinski, Honorary Professor at the Université de Geneva, in Switzerland, Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and former President of the Republic of Senegal, and Marie-Éva de Villers, the sole representative from Quebec and indeed from Canada.
All the members of the new Committee gathered in Paris, on Tuesday, October 21, at the Théâtre national de l'Opéra comique for a protocol ceremony at which Philippe Beaussant received his sword as a member of the Académie. Two days later, at the Institut de France, he delivered his first speech as a new member.
Author of the Multidictionnaire de la langue française and the Nouvelle grammaire en tableaux, Marie-Éva de Villers was appointed a Knight of the Ordre national du Québec in 1999. She was awarded the Prix Camille-Laurin by the Office québécois de la langue française in 2004, in recognition of her commitment to promoting the use and quality of French in her workplace, personal life or sphere of influence. In 1998, she received a medal from the l’Académie des lettres du Québec.