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

George Schaeffer

Awarded in 2022

George Schaeffer, as a visionary leader and brilliant self-made entrepreneur, he inspires us with the way in which he has made philanthropy his life’s greatest work.

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George Schaeffer, as a visionary leader and brilliant self-made entrepreneur, inspires others with the way in which he has made philanthropy his life’s greatest work. His parents survived the Holocaust and immigrated with him to New York, escaping the violence of the Hungarian Revolution. From a young age, he possessed the tenacity and gift for uncovering opportunity where others might see only challenges and adversity. His work ethic and passion for business led him to a degree from City College of New York, after which he worked in his family’s garment manufacturing business. In search of new challenges, he moved to Los Angeles in 1981. There, he started OPI Products, a business that would ultimately become a world-recognized consumer brand thanks to his transformative vision. After selling this company, never one to rest on his laurels, in 2014 he became Chairman and CEO of People’s Trust Insurance where he has brought to an entirely different industry his spirit of innovation, inspiration, and humanity.

His success is matched only by his generosity, as for decades now he has sought ways to support and help his community. In 2009, he and his wife Irina formed the George and Irina Schaeffer Foundation through which they have donated millions to charities worldwide, making it their priority to bring help to those most in need. He has given to the American Heart Association, Leukemia Research Foundation, National Lung Association, Bnai Zion Foundation, universities, Jewish cultural organizations, music conservatories, and hospitals, to name a few. He has been personally driven to support medical research, humanitarian projects, and education. He and Irina are committed to educating today’s generation about the past in order to create environments of tolerance and mutual respect. He believes passionately that education is the key to ensuring we do not repeat the errors of history.

With Irina, he believed in The American University of Paris and gave without hesitation the capital gift that allowed the university to create the AUP Quai d’Orsay Learning Commons, home to the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention. With AUP, he has shared a dream of bringing an end to genocide and crimes against humanity during our lifetime. The Center spreads its wings from the Shoah to Syria, bringing to France and making available to the public the 120,000 hours of survivor testimony in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive founded by Steven Spielberg during the making of *Schindler’s List*. He has made possible the innovative research, curricula, and pedagogies that the Center director and archivist believe will lead to a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of genocide and mass violence – never more critical than now.

A man of tremendous principle and heart, George Schaeffer is a cherished member of The American University of Paris community.

Doris Daughney

Awarded in 2022

Doris led with compassion and generosity, with deep commitment to AUP's transformative liberal arts-based education, and with the firm, sure hand these years of transition required.

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This evening, it is an honor to present Doris Daughney with the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service, similar to what was done for Judith Ogilvie when she received her honorary degree and for Ray Henze at the end of his service as chair, in the presence of everyone and during our online graduation. Somehow, in the crush of events this year has had in store for us, and also because we’re still in medias res, there has not been a moment to recognize what Doris took on and how she has so brilliantly acquitted herself. It has not been an easy time to step into board chairmanship.

In her opening months as Chair, with the board largely online for the better part of a year already, Doris kept communications flowing, spent hours of phone time in direct dialogue with many board members, identified new opportunities and risks, created task forces and new committees to investigate and oversee them, and supported the leadership team and the president without reserve. In the opening months of that second difficult Covid year, Doris learned that the president intended to step down a year and a half later, and she kept this secret until a year out, working behind the scenes to put in place all the structures that would lead to a good transition. That search process, rapidly launched to give maximum time to name a successor, saved the institution from a year of interim leadership—which often brings fundraising and strategic activity into the doldrums of an interregnum pause, something AUP could hardly afford. It is also worth noting how very difficult it is to lead at times of transition, which are always bumpy and paved with surprises, and which is all that Doris has ever known, from her own first year as chair to the president's last year and beyond, in her third year, to the onboarding of a new president next year. Doris has led with compassion and generosity, with deep commitment to transformative liberal arts-based education, and with the firm, sure hand these years of transition required, but that people, let’s be honest, don’t always like to see in a woman. Both Doris and the president have known a bit about that. On behalf of the entire leadership team, and straight from the heart, this medal is offered to Doris, to be followed by a framed laudation, in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to AUP’s history and her selfless dedication during two very demanding years. May her third year be much easier, post-Covid, post-transition, in productive and joyous partnership with Sonya Stephens.

There is only one of these medals left, created many decades ago at the Monnaie de Paris, and it is known that the mold has been broken. It is made of brass and represents the Eiffel Tower with the Seine flowing beneath it, presaging the landmark building at Quai d’Orsay, and it has a global explorer quotation about courageous self-determination from Walt Whitman engraved on the back. This beautiful symbolism is fitting as this honor is bestowed on the last chair, for at the conclusion of three extraordinary board chairmanships, the mold breaks with Doris.

Gretchen Handwerger

Awarded in 2021

Gretchen Handwerger, has had a distinguished forty-year career in international relations, economic and cultural affairs, beginning with service to the Peace Corps, to which she also provided leadership as both Deputy Director and Acting Director.

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Gretchen Handwerger has enjoyed a distinguished forty-year career in international relations, economic, and cultural affairs, starting with her service to the Peace Corps, where she also provided leadership as both Deputy Director and Acting Director. A true global explorer, she resided in South America and seven Southeast Asian countries before her tenure in Paris as the World Bank delegate to the OECD. At the World Bank, she managed programs in both India and Bangladesh and gradually developed a wide network that she generously extended to benefit The American University of Paris.

A Swarthmore graduate who has also served on its board, as well as on the boards of National Cathedral School for Girls and the National Child Research Center, Gretchen has been a thoughtful, intelligent, discerning, and lifelong advocate of liberal education and multicultural exchange.

During her nearly two decades on the AUP board, she chaired the Committee on Trusteeship and sat on those of Development, Student Affairs, and Academic Affairs. She contributed to two presidential search committees, earning admiration for her wise counsel from fellow board members, AUP administrators, and alumni. In 2001, along with Judith Ogilvie, she co-chaired a memorable gala in DC, featuring Olivia de Havilland, which raised $100,000 for the University.

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.

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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, she has long believed that political responsibility should be the basis for all human action, and she has 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 her Iranian-American husband and young family, she has long championed the rights of those who could not defend their own.

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

A graduate of AUP and the Harvard Business School, she worked in early-stage startups, management consulting, and business development. During her 8 years at Google, which she joined in 2003, she held senior roles leading business development teams across Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East that focused on building new social and web platforms. While at Google, she felt drawn to the Palestinian cause, creating in Gaza a tech accelerator and coding academy that has become GazaSkyGeeks today, and on whose board she still sits. She later produced two films about Gaza, *Under Siege* and *The Idol*. She has 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, she 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 the 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, she becomes Crowdpac’s CEO.

In 2017, she was 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, she recognizes the central role of education in a democracy. She has been a staunch believer in her alma mater, strengthening their efforts to support their students in the liberal-arts based, education-for-the-whole-person way that they do at AUP. Six years ago, with Mercy Corps, she 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. She 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, she brought him to AUP. Mohammed is today a beloved member of the AUP community, a business and computer science student with a future, and 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 she has supported, educated, and mentored. A woman of principle and heart, Gisel is 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, world-renowned and revered actress, she holds 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, she is a cherished member of the AUP community.

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

Always a fighter, she took on the studio culture in Hollywood by first refusing to accept further parts for sweet young things. She ultimately took Warner Brothers to court for financial abuses of her 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 she did not make a film for three years. But when she did, playing an unwed mother who is forced to give up her child, she won her first Oscar for Best Actress.

A member of the ACP Board in the early 1970s, she was the only woman on that Board. She understood and represented the political ideas of the students during that period of tension between members of the Board and ACP students. She encouraged fellow Board members to be open to new and constructive ideas. Ever true to her principles, when she could not win the battle for the students, she 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, she took the stage at the Academy Awards in 2003, to the famous swells of *Gone with the Wind*, receiving an endless standing ovation. She received a special lifetime tribute from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2006. Two years later, President George W. Bush awarded her the National Medal of Arts. She earned the Légion d’Honneur from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010. In 2011, at the Nuit des Césars, she was greeted by yet another standing ovation for an illustrious life in cinema, a life sumptuously well lived. One hundred years young, she is who we all want to become.

David McGovern

Awarded in 2015

David McGovern is a legend in Paris, and has been since he moved here with his wife Maggie and daughters in 1967.  One American ambassador got it very right when he called McGovern the mayor of the American community in Paris. Known to all for his generosity, ethic of service, public spiritedness, love for liberal education, reverence for family, and devotion to faith.

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David McGovern is a legend in Paris, having held that esteemed status since he relocated with his wife Maggie and their daughters in 1967. One American ambassador accurately dubbed him the mayor of the American community in Paris. Renowned for his generosity, ethic of service, public spiritedness, passion for liberal education, commitment to family, and dedication to his faith, David's leadership was officially recognized by the French in 1983 when he was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Sent by his law firm, Shearman and Sterling, to establish the Paris office forty years ago, David served as a partner from 1962 to 1999, when he retired. Under his guidance, the office thrived, expanding from a team of two to ninety. Throughout those years, he actively participated on the boards of nearly every American institution in Paris: The American Club of Paris, The American Hospital, the American Library, The American Cathedral—where he served three times as senior warden and currently holds the position of Chancellor—the American Chamber of Commerce, the French-American Foundation, and the Mona Bismarck Foundation. To each organization, he brought his expertise as both an American lawyer and a member of the French Bar (avocat à la cour de Paris), along with his sound judgment and profound understanding of the French legal, cultural, and political milieu.

However, his exceptional leadership and unwavering support were particularly evident in his commitment to The American University of Paris. He holds the distinction of being the single longest-serving member of the Board in the university's history. Indeed, he has served continuously for thirty-five years since his appointment by Chair Pierre Salinger and President Dan Socolow in 1980. Following Salinger as Chair of the Board, David navigated through significant challenges during his tenure, including the Iran hostage crisis, the first Iraq War, AUP’s transition into a French fiscal entity, the College’s evolution into a four-year university, and the establishment of a full-time faculty. He led the search for two university presidents and has been a member of every board committee. As one of the few permanent residents of France on the Board, he has also played a vital role as a trusted advisor, swiftly assisting in managing numerous emergencies during the twenty-four years of their acquaintance. David McGovern was honored with the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Service in 2015.

Pierre Salinger

Awarded in 2014

Pierre was a member of the AUP Board of Trustees for twenty years. He served as Vice Chair, Chair (1980-89), and Honorary Chair (1990-98) under six presidents.

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Pierre Salinger (1925-2004), the tenth anniversary of whose death we celebrate today and in two different exhibitions this fall in the Fine Arts Gallery of The American University of Paris, was a member of the AUP Board of Trustees for twenty years. He served as Vice Chair, Chair (1980-89), and Honorary Chair (1990-98) under six presidents. During his term as Board Chair, and thanks to his strong connections with the French government and devotion to the institution, ACP, soon to become AUP, became a fully compliant, legally recognized institution in France.  In 1985, the University recognized his contributions and extraordinary stature with the award of its second honorary degree.

Pierre Salinger was born to an American father and a French mother in San Francisco, where, after serving in the US Navy, he began his career as a journalist.  He was a major force in the presidential campaign and kitchen cabinet of John F. Kennedy, and served as White House Press Secretary to both presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.  He served as a US Senator in 1964 and as campaign manager for Robert F. Kennedy. After living through at close hand both Kennedy assassinations, he returned to France where he served as roving editor for L’Express under Servan-Schreiber, and then as bureau chief for ABC News, subsequently becoming the network’s European correspondent in London.  Author of many books, Salinger was a favorite on French television, a witty pundit, and frequent commentator on matters both American and French. 

Daniel Socolow, AUP’s 4th President

Awarded in 2013

One of the several great architects of our future, he legalized and regularized the institution’s status in France, as well as the status and benefits of faculty and staff;  he created The American University of Paris Foundation, galvanized fundraising, strengthened the academic program, gave attention to continuing and adult education, extended the physical plant, and prepared for the shift from ACP to AUP, from college to university.

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Dr. Socolow presided over our University’s 25th Commencement half its life ago, just a year or two before I arrived in Paris.  His tenure here was a difficult one—he landed at the very moment when the University was becoming legally and fiscally French.  One of the several great architects of our future, he legalized and regularized the institution’s status in France, as well as the status and benefits of faculty and staff;  he created The American University of Paris Foundation, galvanized fundraising, strengthened the academic program, gave attention to continuing and adult education, extended the physical plant, prepared for the shift from ACP to AUP, from college to university; built a new board with Pierre Salinger, the famous chair of his board, introduced caps and gowns to AUP graduations, began the tradition of giving honorary degrees and received one of the first the University offered.  He acknowledges he couldn’t have done it without his stellar, principled dean, Charlotte Lacaze, Professor of Art History emerita, who is in the audience today.  Dan Socolow has remained a friend of the University and has drawn especially close in recent years, for which mentorship and support I am deeply grateful. 

Dr. Socolow held for fifteen years after AUP what many would call “the best job in the world.”  From 1997 to 2013 he was Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program (known in the US as the “Genius Awards”), from which position he gave out 400 Genius Awards, half of those awarded to date in the program’s entire 34-year history.  For those in the audience not familiar with these prestigious grants, genius awards have been given to people as young as 18 and as old as 80; they go to US citizens from any field and come with no strings attached; the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.  You can’t apply for it either, so the award is always a surprise.  During his tenure, people found out they were a genius when they got the call from Dan Socolow saying “Congratulations, you’ve just won half a million dollars to be creative, original, and, for the next year at least, to be at liberty to explore, research, craft, write, farm, sculpt, paint, develop new models, organize communities, etc., etc., etc.

Educated at The University of Wisconsin, Harvard University and The University of Chicago, Dan Socolow changed the course of The American College in Paris, prepared for the birth of The American University of Paris, and participates today in the University’s flourishing.  Thank you, Dan, for being such an important part of our history and our future.

Berna and Lee Huebner

Awarded in 2009

Lee and Berna set up an NGO, the Center for the Study of International Communications, which received 32 Annenberg-Weingarten scholarships to bring journalism students from developing countries.  To date they have brought 14 Cambodian students, 2 from Zimbabwe, 6 from Kenya, 1 from Nigeria, 3 from Macedonia, one each from Ghana, South Africa,  Egypt, and Palestine.

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It is also my pleasure to offer a Presidential Award for Distinguished Service to a couple very well known to the AUP community, Lee and Berna Huebner.  As former Editor of the International Herald Tribune and current Dean of Communications at GWU, Lee Huebner has been a trustee of the University for a quarter century, and had the vision when he was our president to found the Global Communications Department that is today the University’s flagship program, undergraduate and graduate. In addition, twelve years ago, Lee and Berna set up an NGO, the Center for the Study of International Communications, which received 32 Annenberg-Weingarten scholarships to bring journalism students from developing countries. To date they have brought 14 Cambodian students, 2 from Zimbabwe, 6 from Kenya, 1 from Nigeria, 3 from Macedonia, one each from Ghana, South Africa,  Egypt, and Palestine.  Kim Chakanetsa left AUP to win the Terrence Ranger prize for the best Masters degree in African studies at Oxford University.Students from this program, deeply committed to civic media, are now professors of communications in Cambodia, Macedonia and at the Palestinian University of Jerusalem. Wanja Laiboni has set up local radio stations across southern Sudan supporting post-civil-war development. Soliel Mom Chandra did the same thing in Cambodia. Sarah Kimani went on to win the CNN award for the year’s most promising African journalist. 

Berna and Lee have recently raised more funds to create the Art Buchwald scholarship with the support of the Graham foundation and the friends and family of Art Buchwald.  A Rwandan student has already received one of these scholarships. Discreetly and selflessly, Berna assured the students’ integration into Parisian life, helping them find accommodations and jobs and internships, working tirelessly to assure their success.  The American University of Paris, and all the students you have brought to us, Berna and Lee, as well as the countries and civil societies around the globe they are presently serving, owe you both an immense debt.   Please accept this award as a token of our deepest appreciation.