Highest Award from France to Hopkins Professor
In a formal ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 24, Johns Hopkins University historian John Baldwin is to receive the highest award bestowed by the French government, the Legion of Honor. Created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize military and civilian contributions to France, the award in recent decades has been conferred mainly on French citizens.
When foreigners have received the honor, it has tended to go to the very famous, ambassadors or military generals. Americans who have received the award include actors Jerry Lewis and Gregory Peck, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, television cooking legend Julia Child and noted wine critic Robert Parker.
Baldwin, the Charles Homer Haskins Emeritus Professor of History at Johns Hopkins, is being recognized for his 50 years of scholarship on the French medieval period -- including a French translation of his book on King Philip Augustus that made the French best-seller list. The French consul general will present the award to Baldwin in a 5 p.m. ceremony at Evergreen House, 4545 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.
Stephen Nichols, chair of the university's Department of Romance Languages, said the Legion of Honor rarely goes to academics, and then only to "the most prestigious professors in France." Distinguished American professors are typically recognized with the Order of Arts and Letters, which Baldwin received in 1984. So for a U.S. professor, especially a humanities professor, to receive a Legion of Honor is exceptional, Nichols said. "This is the top award you can get in France," he said.
"John Baldwin has had a long and distinguished career as a leading scholar of medieval France," said Daniel Weiss, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and a History of Art professor. "His work has been of fundamental importance to those of us in the field of medieval studies, as well as to those interested in fine historical writing."
"We're delighted and honored for Professor Baldwin to be receiving this recognition," Weiss said. "It is well- deserved."
Baldwin, who became professor emeritus two years ago, was notified that he would receive the award in May 2001 and a presentation ceremony was being planned for that fall, but then the events of Sept. 11 occurred and the ceremony never happened.
When he first got the news of his selection, Baldwin said, "It was like a bolt out of the blue. ... I'm not the kind of person they usually give this to.
The official letter announcing the award said, "This distinction marks the high esteem in which you are held by the French government. It comes naturally as a reward for your important contribution to cultural cooperation between France and America."
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