BOSTON – The French Library and Cultural Center/Alliance Franaise de Boston et Cambridge has announced that Executive Director Elaine Uzan Leary has been awarded the honor of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mrite by the government of France.

In a ceremony in his home on June 9, Consul General of France Thierry Vankerk-Hoven expressed his appreciation of the leadership demonstrated by Leary and her support of the promotion of French culture and language.

Said Vankerk-Hoven, “It gives me immense pleasure to award you the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mrite that the highest authorities in France confer in recognition of your continued service in promoting the language and culture of France.”

Of French-Canadian heritage (Leary’s mother was born in Quebec), she was born Elaine L’Heureux in Auburn, Maine. She has been active in Boston’s French community for more than three decades.

Leary launched the educational programs at the Alliance Franaise in Boston and was a founding member of the Boston-Strasbourg Sister City Association. Prior to joining the center in September 2001 she was marketing executive for foreign language materials with Heinle and Heinle and Houghton Mifflin publishers. In her role as executive director, Leary has been instrumental in forging collaborative relationships among the region’s numerous Francophone associations.

Leary was responsible for establishing several scholarship opportunities in the area. In 2002 the Richard J. Testa French Scholarship Fund was created, annually awarding two students of Franco-American heritage funds to study French at the Alliance Franaise in Paris.

Additionally, the center supports American high school students studying in Strasbourg, through the sister city association. The latest initiative is the After-School French Program in the Boston Public Schools, launched in March 2005. The center created the program, hired and trained the teachers and offers the program to the children at no charge. There is a waiting list of interested students.

The center is the largest institution of its kind in New England. It houses a collection of French books, periodicals, DVDs and audio and video cassettes and offers year-round language classes and programs for adults and children. Cultural events include lectures, concerts, cooking demonstrations, wine-tastings and art exhibitions. The French Library celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

The Ordre National du Mrite was created by General Charles de Gaulle on Dec. 3, 1963, and is second only to the Legion of Honor. The decoration recognizes distinguished service in a public, private, civil or military capacity.

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