Ambassador Awards French Philanthropists in U.S.
New York, September 12, 2013
Ma chère Odile, et cher Michel,
Mon cher René-Pierre, et chère Alexis,
Monsieur le Conseiller à l’Assemblée des Français de l’Etranger et Président de la American Society of the French Legion of Honor,
Cher Guy, et chère Kristina,
Monsieur le Consul Général,
Cher Bertrand, et chère Laurence, whom I’d like to thank for hosting us tonight at the consulate, and for his excellent work,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mes chers amis,
It is a great pleasure and privilege for Sophie and for me to welcome you all to the French Consulate, a place that is dear to my heart, as we are gathered here this evening to honor two eminent members of the French community in New York, Odile de Schietere-Longchampt and René-Pierre Azria.
I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Odile’s and René-Pierre’s family and friends who have joined us here tonight to express their support and admiration. With a very special word of thanks to Odile’s husband Michel and René-Pierre’s wife Alexis, to both of whom I also want to pays tribute. They truly are our other heroes this evening.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Odile and René-Pierre are outstanding professionals and exceptional individuals. They are dear friends of Sophie’s and mine, they also are close friends of America.
In this respect I believe there could be no better time for our celebration tonight, as our two countries are in the forefront of international efforts to stop Bachar’s atrocities in Syria and to promote a political transition in that country.
Chers amis, the Legion of Honor that I will bestow upon Odile and René-Pierre in a few minutes was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward extraordinary accomplishments and outstanding services rendered to France, based on a personal decision by the President of the French Republic.
It is France’s highest honor and one of the most coveted in the world. And the President of France has decided to name you, Odile and René-Pierre, to the rank of Chevalier, illustrating France’s deep gratitude for your personal commitment to French-American friendship.
Ladies first, that’s what Sophie keeps telling me, so we’ll begin with Odile de Schietere-Longchampt.
Ma chère Odile, you were born in Annecy, in the French Alps, and received your training at the prestigious Ecole du Louvre in Paris. In 1966, you married Michel Longchampt, who is also a very dear friend, and during the next ten years, you dedicated yourself to raising your three daughters.
The United States became your country of adoption in 1976 - even though you frequently travel back to France, since you and Michel own a home in Provence.
In New York, you started a brilliant career as an interior design consultant, and you are also the owner of Odile de S. Inc., a decorating firm. Since then, you have worked with many private clients in the United States and Europe, and have been published in various magazines.
As part of your professional activity, you promote French craftsmanship by inviting French artisans to work here in the United States. This was the case for instance with the decoration of the Société Générale building in New York.
In addition, you have made your decorating expertise and your incredible energy and enthusiasm available to a range of French and Franco-American associations.
The list is long, so I’ll only mention a few. You took part on several occasions in the promotion of the Artisanat Français at the French Cultural services. You have played a key role in French-American Aid for Children, serving as chairman and co-president of the Bal des Berceaux. You are currently Second Vice President of this society, which is very well represented tonight with Marguerite Mangin and Imssy Klebe. Some of your duties have included designing the decor for charity events and recruiting “débutantes” for the annual gala, which is a major French-American event.
Your precious assistance and advice in the organization of annual events has also helped raise funds for important charities such as Surgeons of Hope and the Société de charité maternelle de Paris (The Society for Maternal Charity of Paris), which deals with children’s health and education as well as the prevention of child abuse.
You have also provided invaluable help in organizing the galas of a number of other societies such as Action against Hunger, the American Friends of the Louvre and the French Institute Alliance Française in New York. I am delighted that the President of FIAF Marie-Monique Steckel and her husband Raymond can be with us tonight, and I would also like to recognize our Cultural Counsellor Antonin Baudry and his wife Bérénice.
Ma chère Odile, as a designer, you contributed to the show house for the American Hospital in Paris between 1995 and 2005. The funds raised by this event helped subsidize new hospital rooms and medical equipment.
Similarly, the Comité Colbert, an organization promoting French art de vivre at an international level, has benefited from your talents as an event planner and decorator, in particular for one of their events with Hermès. And here I am glad to recognize Ketty Maisonrouge who served as the permanent US representative of the Comité Colbert.
I would like to focus on Odile’s commitment to the French Heritage Society, an organization dedicated to protecting the French architectural legacy both in France and the United States. The scope of its action is truly remarkable, for its thirteen chapters in the U.S. and one in Paris have supported the restoration of nearly 500 buildings and gardens since 1982 - and the society’s work is a wonderful testimony of Franco-American friendship. I want to warmly thank the Chairman of the Society Elizabeth Stribling and Guy Robinson for being with us tonight.
Ma chère Odile, you have been a member of this association for about twenty years, and since 2007, you have been Co-Chairman of the French Heritage Society’s New York Chapter. The French consulate has directly benefited from your generosity and incredible dedication, since you took the initiative of organizing a fundraising event to provide for the restoration of this Reception Room. The Gala was a great success, and the funds collected were beyond all expectations. Our coffered ceiling (plafond à caissons), for instance, was beautifully renovated, as you can see.
For that I want to thank you again from the bottom of my heart, as I want to thank George Sape, who is here with Jeri and who was also instrumental in this renovation together with Elizabeth and Guy. I was the Consul general here in New York at that time and I will never forget this.
The French Heritage Society’s New York Chapter is now supporting the restoration of the Jardins d’Albertas near Aix-en-Provence, the Château de La Bussière in Loiret, and Deyo House in New Paltz, NY. An upcoming project
involves the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. And I warn you, nobody can say no to Odile.
Ma chère Odile, in recognition of your exemplary commitment to preserving the French architectural legacy and promoting on every front the friendship between our two countries, the President of France decided to name you Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
It is a privilege and a great pleasure for me to bestow the insignia upon you this evening.
Odile de Schietere-Longchampt, au nom du Président de la République, et en vertu des pouvoirs qui nous sont conférés, nous vous faisons Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
Mon cher René-Pierre,
Let me now pay tribute to the incredibly successful businessman, the committed philanthropist and the outstanding individual that you are.
I’d like to extend a warm greeting to the members of your family who are with us and deserve part of the credit : your wife Alexis, who is also a dear friend of Sophie’s and mine, your daughter Ariel and your mother Elda, whose presence here tonight means so much to you and to all of us. We owe you a lot Madame.
Cher René-Pierre, you were born in Boulogne Billancourt near Paris and pursued a brilliant academic path. You attended the prestigious Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) in Jouy-en-Josas, where you earned a degree magna cum laude in finance and international business. You also hold an International Management Degree from the London Business School and the Stern Graduate School of New York University, as well a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Paris Jussieu.
Your professional career, which spans over 30 years, has been characterized by tremendous success in the field of corporate finance in particular. You are a much renowned master of mergers and acquisitions and you made possible some of the key deals of the last two decades. Your expertise covers various sectors such as technology, media and telecommunications, as well as healthcare and consumer goods.
In passing, I want to point out that you are an accomplished polyglot, since you speak not only French and English, but also Japanese and Italian – with René-Pierre we often speak Japanese together.
Indeed you began your banking career with Indosuez in Tokyo in 1981 and then spent most of it in the US, since you moved to New York in 1985. You founded Blackstone Indosuez in 1987 and managed it until 1996.
You then became a Global Partner with Rothschild worldwide, and were head of the Telecom practice of Rothschild in the United States.
Since 2008, you have been the president and CEO of the advisory firm Tegris LLC, which you founded and which is a great success story.
Throughout your career, you made it a point of honor, as you like to put it, to combine the European tradition of integrity with American professionalism and resourcefulness. Your colleagues unanimously define you as a man of great rigor and expertise, an excellent strategist but also a compassionate and generous individual.
Indeed, you are much more than a successful banker. You are a true Renaissance man, interested in many cultural and scientific fields, and you have managed to fit multiple philanthropic activities into your very busy schedule.
You believe in a society governed by laws, and have been active in defending Human Rights, building bridges between cultures and mobilizing social actors to fight all forms of intolerance.
Among the organizations that are especially dear to your heart, I would like to mention the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an advocacy group working toward the elimination of anti-Semitism worldwide, and more generally promoting shared democratic values.
It is a great privilege and pleasure to welcome AJC Executive Director David Harris, un grand Monsieur whom I also consider a friend. Thank you so much David and Giulietta for being here with us tonight. And I am delighted to greet other members of the AJC like Jason Isaacson and Martine Rubenstein and several others.
Mon cher René-Pierre, you are currently sitting on the AJC Board of Governors and are a member of its Executive Committee and Board of Trustees.
You also play an active role in the AJC’s Africa Institute. Your work in that capacity contributes to raising awareness of those challenges facing Africa that most resonate with the priorities of the American Jewish community.
So it should come as no surprise that the AJC conferred upon you the prestigious Herbert Lehman Award in 2010.
You and Alexis are more generally committed to the defense of all minorities and you support a number of charitable organizations. The Southern Poverty Law Center is one of them. The Center is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Since its founding in 1971, the association has won numerous lawsuits on behalf of the exploited, the powerless and the forgotten.
Another organization that has benefited from your longtime support is Action Against Hunger, which works to save the lives of thousands of malnourished children each year. I could also mention the Association des Grandes Écoles de France under the leadership of our friend Anne de Louvigny Stone, who is with us tonight, and the list could go on and on, illustrating your legendary generosity.
Alors mon Cher René-Pierre, on behalf of the President of France, and in recognition of your exceptional commitment to French-American friendship and to promoting Human Rights and intercultural exchanges, it is a particular privilege for me to bestow upon you the insignia of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor.
René-Pierre Azria, au nom du Président de la République, et en vertu des pouvoirs qui nous sont conférés, nous vous faisons Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.