Following a ceremony at Birnam Wood Gold Club on August 26, the Republic of France named Dr. Mary Collier a knight in the educational order by for her work in furthering French culture and education. Currently a professor at Westmont College and a vocal coach at the Music Academy of the West, this recognition adds another level of prestige to Collier’s career.
Three years ago, Frederick Sidon, a Santa Barbara resident who had been knighted in 2007, contacted Collier and requested a copy of her curriculum vitae, which he passed along to David Martinon, Consul General of France, Los Angeles. As time passed without another word, Collier assumed nothing had come of his inquiry. As such, Collier recalls being “genuinely shocked” when she received a certified letter from New York designating her a knight in the educational order — officially, Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
The private ceremony highlighted Collier’s professional achievements over the past 35 years. Westmont College president Gayle Beebe hosted the event and opened with a speech about Collier’s contributions as a French professor at the college since joining the faculty in 1981. Beebe was followed by president of the Music Academy of the West, Scott Reed, who spoke of Collier’s journey with the institution from student to her current position on faculty instructing singers in French diction. Two of Collier’s former students sang at the event.
Finally, Martinon delivered a speech outlining the nature of the honor and Collier’s qualifications as its recipient. Martinon saw Collier’s nomination through all the levels of French government and bureaucracy, so this ceremony was especially significant for him as it marked his last appointment as Consul General of Los Angeles before moving to a new post in New York.
Collier, a Santa Barbara native, has been fascinated with all things French since childhood, and has pursued the study of French language and literature to its fullest extent, earning her doctorate degree at the University of Paris, Sorbonne. “I am very proud and very grateful to be acknowledged for my work,” said Collier. “It is a joy to be rewarded for doing what I love to do!”