Knighthoods don’t get bestowed every day in 21st-century California, so when they do, it’s time to celebrate. Fred Sidon has been a resident of Santa Barbara since he retired from strategic consulting in 1992, and in those 15 years, he has put his considerable talents and enormous energy behind a variety of cultural projects, including Opera Santa Barbara. Of all the many wonderful organizations he has either supported or led, the Reseau Fran§ais de Santa Barbara (French Network of Santa Barbara) has probably been the closest to Sidon’s heart. And on Friday, June 29, at the La Cumbre Club, the French government reciprocated that love, granting him the highest honor France bestows on non-citizens, the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite (Knight of the National Order of Merit).
The award, which is a dramatic-looking silver-and-blue medal in the shape of a Maltese asterisk, went beautifully with Sidon’s equestrian-themed blue tie, and the new knight was in fine form as he greeted his many well-wishers before the luncheon. UCSB Professor of French and Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Programs Ronald W. Tobin spoke about the continuing importance of the French language and of France to world affairs before he introduced Philippe Larrieu, the French consul in Los Angeles who conferred the award. As French music played in the background guests were treated to a meal fit for kings-or at least one knight.