The Presidential Award for Distinguished Achievement

The Presidential Award of Distinguished Achievement is conferred upon members of the AUP community who have demonstrated an outstanding level of service and commitment to The American University of Paris. This award is granted once per year by the current president of the University. 

Winners of the Award

Raymond F. Henze III

Chairman of the Board, 2014-2020

Awarded in 2020

Presented May 14, 2020 by AUP President Celeste M. Schenck:

Raymond F. Henze III, an AUP Parent P’10, is an active, engaged member of the Board of Trustees of The American University of Paris since 2007, and a distinguished, two-term Chairman of its Board (2014 -2020) during the years of AUP Ascending. He has provided leadership to virtually every Board committee during his tenure—from the Academic and Student Affairs Committee and the AUP Presidential Search Committee of 2008, to the Enrollment Committee and the Presidential Review Committee. Every day of the six years of his chairmanship, he has worked closely with AUP’s President and her Leadership Team, working tirelessly to take AUP ever higher.

Read the full laudation

In his professional life, Raymond Henze has long served as an advisor and board member to alternative investment management firms and private corporations. From 1992 to 2006 he was a Group Managing Director at Trust Company of the West (TCW). He was Chairman of TCW Global Private Equity and Real Estate and served as a member of the board of TCW Asset Management Corporation. Raymond Henze created several alternative investment strategies for TCW in real estate and took over responsibility at TCW for distressed private equity funds in the United States, China, India and Latin America. In 1995 he co-founded the Emerging Markets Real Estate series of funds with Hines, a Houston-based real estate development firm. Prior to joining TCW in 1992, Mr. Henze was President of Pacific Holding Corporation, a large private company with interests in shipping, consumer and industrial products, luxury hotels and commercial real estate. He also served as the President and/or senior operating officer of several companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

A lifelong and passionate defender of the liberal arts tradition in American higher education—of which he is a staunch appreciator of both the art and the science—Raymond Henze has presided over the six crucial years of AUP’s re-founding. His experience of long leadership of higher education institutions gave loft to our ambitions for AUP. Raymond Henze is a Trustee Emeritus of Williams College, where he received a B.A. in Political Science in 1974 and an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2002. From 1997 until

2005, he served as a Trustee of Greenwich Academy, a private day school for girls in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he also served as Vice Chairman of the Board.

At The American University of Paris, his influence has been no less. At Raymond Henze’s very first meeting as Chairman, he led the Board to launch AUP’s first fundraising campaign, AUP Ascending, created to fund the initiatives outlined in our strategic plan of the same name. He presided with courage and admirable leadership over the re-founding of the University in this decade. First, he led the Board strategic planning retreat that birthed AUP’s target student--the global explorer—for whom, since 2014, every program and policy, every space and strategy on campus was redesigned, resulting in a complete transformation of our identity as a University and important growth in AUP’s student numbers. During his tenure, impelled by his endless energy and compelling example, the Board ratified the adoption of a residential life program, as well as the expansion and renovation of the entire campus, and the purchase of AUP’s flagship building at 69, quai d’Orsay. He supported curricular renewal as well, such as the founding of cutting-edge research centers on democracy, the environment, the study of genocide and human rights, cultural translation and civic media, and organized the 2019 convening of the Centennial Conference reappraising the Paris Peace settlements at the end of World War I. At the head of the Board, he has also served as chief fundraiser for AUP, manifest both in his own generosity and the belief from which he leads the University, which is that fundraising is essential if AUP is to realize its highest dreams. The three grand salons on the first floor of our Combes Student Life Center are named in honor of the Henze Family and the individual rooms were later renamed, at Raymond Henze’s request, for three other prominent chairs of AUP: Judith Ogilvie, David McGovern, and Pierre Salinger.

In bestowing The 2020 Presidential Award for Distinguished Achievement upon Raymond F. Henze III, the President of The American University of Paris expresses the gratitude of the University’s entire community—students, faculty, staff, board members, alumni and friends—to an indefatigable Chair whose devotion, generosity, expertise, energy, care, and unimpeachable integrity have left their indelible mark on this institution.


Gisel Kordestani

Awarded in 2018

Laudation by President Celeste Schenck:

As a technology entrepreneur and thought leader, you have long believed that political responsibility should be the basis for all human action, and you have walked that talk. A citizen of the world, born of an American father and a French mother, growing up in Britain, studying in Paris, living now in California with your Iranian-American husband and young family, you have long championed the rights of those who could not defend their own.

Read more about Gisel Kordestani

As a technology entrepreneur and thought leader, you have long believed that political responsibility should be the basis for all human action, and you have walked that talk. A citizen of the world, born of an American father and a French mother, growing up in Britain, studying in Paris, living now in California with your Iranian-American husband and young family, you have long championed the rights of those who could not defend their own.

A graduate of AUP and the Harvard Business School, you worked in early-stage startups, management consulting, and business development. During your 8 years at Google, which you joined in 2003, you held senior roles leading business development teams across Europe, Africa, Latin American, Asia and the Middle East that focused on building new social and web platforms. While at Google you felt drawn to the Palestinian cause, creating in Gaza a tech accelerator and coding academy that has become GazaSkyGeeks today, and on which board you still sit. You later produced two films about Gaza, Under Siege and The Idol. You have also been a long-serving member of Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid organization engaged in transitional environments that have experienced natural disaster, economic collapse, or conflict.

In 2013, recognizing that dollars, as much as votes, win elections in the US, you founded Crowdpac, a nonpartisan crowdfunding site for politics that empowers small-dollar donors and helps thousands of candidates run for office in the United States and United Kingdom. The site evaluates political candidates on the basis of an algorithm based on three things: the way they vote, the things they say, and where they get their funding. It can help voters decide how to place their votes locally, but it can also help them direct their contributions to races country-wide where their most important issues are being foregrounded. This month, you become Crowdpac’s CEO.

In 2017, you were one of eight founding Harvard Business School women graduates who created the Leadership Now Project, which takes as its motto: “Principled Business Leadership to Fix Our Democracy.” The nonpartisan Project’s goal is to put women in office at the federal level, providing funding and top-level expertise and mentoring to candidates running for office. The Project also collaborates with the Bipartisan Caucus of the House, building bridges between US congressmen and congresswomen and experts in the fields of finance and economics.

Along with the exercise of political responsibility, you recognize the central role of education in a democracy. You have been a staunch believer in your alma mater, strengthening our efforts to support our students in the liberal-arts based, education-for-the-whole-person way that we do at AUP. Six years ago, with Mercy Corps you visited the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where 25,000 people crossed the border in a single night fleeing the conflict in Syria, where 100,000 people live precariously today. You met there Mohammed Jabur, a young Syrian student who had been unable to finish his studies in his own country. He spoke only Arabic. After spending a year trying to get a university in the Middle East to take him, you brought him to us. Mohammed is today a beloved member of the AUP community, a business and computer science student with a future, a member of AUP’s BV Syria, a student club that partners with NGOs serving Syrian families in Paris. He is on his way to being fully trilingual. Mohammed is one of five students and promising young people you have supported, educated, and mentored. A woman of principle and heart, Gisel, you are a distinguished leader and a cherished member of the AUP community.

Olivia de Havilland

Awarded in 2017

Laudation by President Celeste Schenck:

Olivia de Havilland, as a world-renowned and revered actress, you hold a very special place in the public imagination. As an AUP parent of Benjamin Goodrich, a former trustee, and a resident of Paris since the mid-1950s, you are a cherished member of the AUP community. A citizen of the world, you were born in Tokyo, but moved early to California with your mother and

Read more about Olivia de Havilland

sister, the actress Joan Fontaine. At 18 years of age you played the role of Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl, and thus began your illustrious stage and film career. By 1935 you had signed with Warner Brothers and were paired with swashbuckler Errol Flynn, with whom you made 8 films, including Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood. But your talent took you much beyond those early films. You would go on to garner Academy Award nominations for your unforgettable performance in Gone with the Wind, the most popular film of all time, and for Hold Back the Dawn. You won Best Actress Awards for To Each His Own and The Heiress.

Always a fighter, you took on the Studio culture in Hollywood by first refusing to accept further parts for sweet young things. You ultimately took Warner Brothers to court for financial abuses of your contract, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of California. The landmark 1945 judgment created the de Havilland rule, which limited the length of a studio contract to a maximum of seven calendar years. Victory came at a steep price, as you did not make a film for three years. But when you did, playing an unwed mother who is forced to give up her child, you won your first Oscar for Best Actress.

A member of the ACP Board in the early 1970s, you were the only woman on that Board. You understood and represented the political ideas of the students during that period of tension between members of the Board and ACP students. You encouraged fellow Board members to be open to new and constructive ideas. Ever true to your principles, when you could not win the battle for the students, you resigned from AUP’s conservative Board.

The star of 49 films, author of a best-selling memoir, and recipient of a star on the Walk of Fame, you took the stage at the Academy Awards in 2003, to the famous swells of Gone with the Wind, receiving an endless standing ovation. You received a special lifetime tribute from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2006. Two years later, President George W. Bush awarded you the National Medal of Arts. You earned the Légion d’Honneur from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010. In 2011, at the Nuit des Césars, you were greeted by yet another standing ovation for an illustrious life in cinema, a life sumptuously well lived. One hundred years young, you are who we all want to become.