Bonjour to new French program stipend

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The Blutes initially approached Lewallen to subsidize opera tickets. Photo by Francesca Norman.

French students intending to participate in the summer abroad program in Lyon, France can now apply for the Father Jacques Hamel scholarship, according to French program director Dr. Jason Lewallen.

The new Father Jacques Hamel Award will provide $1,000 to students majoring and concentrating in French to help defray the costs of studying abroad, Lewallen wrote in an email.

Alumni Beth and Pete Blute donated the money for this stipend by creating an Odyssey Fund to support the French program in March, according to Assistant Vice President of Advancement Elizabeth Murray and Beth Blute.

The Odyssey Fund program began in October 2018 to help a wider range of donors give to UD, Murray said. The threshold for founding an Odyssey Fund is $10,000, according to a flyer produced by the Office of Advancement.

Director of Major Gifts Ellen Rossini said that the Odyssey Fund’s threshold permits it to operate as a small endowment, while gifts to UD’s overall endowment typically begin at $50,000.

Unlike other endowment gifts, a small endowment can be directed to a specific goal and only takes a year to invest, Murray explained.

Murray said that since its launch last fall, three Odyssey funds have been created: the Father Jacques Hamel Award, the Alumni Fund for Faculty Development and Class of 1967 Memorial Scholarship and Odyssey Fund.

Because the investment fund takes several years to generate enough revenue through interest to fund programs, the donors are providing the initial donation to fund the stipend, Lewallen said.

The Blutes first approached Lewallen about a year ago wishing to subsidize the program’s French-language opera tickets, he said.

According to Blute, she and her husband were inspired to give to the French program after attending the rededication ceremony of the Rome campus in August 2018.

“I wanted our next gift [after the Rome expansion] to lend assistance to French majors and those who want to become fluent in French in addition to experiencing the Rome program,” she wrote in an email.

Blute wrote that she first encountered French at UD in 1979 as undergraduate politics major seeking to fulfill her language requirement.

During her Rome semester, Blute wrote that she attempted to visit as many French-speaking countries as possible. Still intrigued by the Francophone world, Blute sought opportunities to return to Europe after Rome.

“But there was no money after Rome to study abroad in France,” she wrote.

When the Blutes’ daughter, French major sophomore Kathleen Blute, applied for the Lyon program, she brought the needs of the French program to her attention, Blute wrote. They discussed the financial difficulties many students encounter when seeking additional study abroad opportunities.

Lewallen confirmed that in the past, accepted students have declined to participate in the program due to financial stress.

In addition to the stipend, Blute hopes that the Odyssey Fund will encourage prospective students and freshmen to consider French majors or concentrations, she wrote. Blute also aims to “encourage alumni of the French program to connect back with their alma mater and support students” through donating to the Lyon program stipend.

The fund is named for Father Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old French priest who was killed while celebrating Mass by two men claiming to work for Islamic State, according to a July 26, 2016 article published by The New York Times.

Lewallen said that the fund’s name was selected by the Blutes, who wanted to honor the religious and cultural barriers Hamel sought to overcome in his public ministry. The Blutes also wanted to call attention to an act of modern martyrdom in the Church at a time when the Catholic Church suffers internationally, he explained.

Blute wrote that selecting Hamel for the title of the award came naturally. During a visit to Rome mere months after his death, Blute saw a small shrine in his honor erected in San Luigi dei Francesi, the national church of France in Rome, she wrote.

“My horror at his murder changed to a sense of peaceful connection with this priest who served his whole life and died after offering daily Mass in a tiny church in France. I felt connected to Father Jacques, in a quiet, peaceful way,” Blute explained.

Blute wants to “familiarize the UD community” with Hamel’s life and death as an example of “modern” service to the Church, she wrote.

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