SYA France at 50

SYA France's 50th anniversary weekend celebration took place from March 24-27 in Rennes and continued in Paris on March 28.

In Rennes, over 375 alumni, parents, current and former faculty, current students, host families, and local dignitaries gathered for the Friday evening Mayoral Reception at Salons de l'Hôtel de Ville de Rennes, and over 275 attended the Saturday Soirée de Gala at L'Opéra de Rennes, the crowning event in Rennes. Members of the Class of SYA France 1968, the first group of students to graduate from SYA France when the school was housed at l'Institut Franco-Américain, were honored for their pioneering spirit and French host families were celebrated for their longstanding relationship with the school. Resident Director Denis Brochu was also honored for his 10 years of loyal service in advance of his retirement at the end of June.

The weekend’s festivities started on Friday, March 24, with an afternoon architectural walk designed by faculty member Benjamin Sabatier and led by students. The evening featured a mayoral reception held at Salons de l'Hôtel de Ville de Rennes with over 375 alumni, parents, current and former faculty, current students, host families, and local dignitaries. The reception included a formal presentation of a certificate of appreciation to Jocelyne Bougeard, deputy chair of international relations from the city of Rennes, in recognition of the city's commitment and dedication to the betterment of the lives of SYA France students and faculty, as well as to their families. The reception concluded with the singing of both the American and French national anthems.

Proceedings continued early Saturday morning with Back-to-School sessions hosted by SYA France faculty and current students. Classes were interactive as alumni and parents participated in French literature, history and language mini-lessons. This was followed by an option for guests to join student-led tours of le Marché des Lices, the second largest open-air farmers market in France. There was also an open house at l’Institute Franco-Américain, the original home of SYA France where students attended classes from 1967 until 1981 when the school moved to its permanent home, Villa Alvarez. Art history teacher J.P. Lemée hosted a special gallery talk on his “Stoc An Vrac’h” exhibition at Galerie DMA.

Guests enjoyed cocktails and camaraderie while celebrating the rich history of SYA France following a performance of alumni and student talent as part of the special occasion. Alumni in attendance represented 34 out of the SYA France classes, which was a tremendous turnout.

On Saturday evening, Alexandria Alger FR’79 CN’12P and Kristin Lund Vosmik FR'81 FR'16P ES'17P, SYA France 50th Anniversary Celebration co-chairs and trustees, welcomed SYA President Tom Hassan and guests to the Soirée de Gala at L'Opéra de Rennes.

Entertainment at the gala was provided by alumna Madeline Fuhrman FR’10 who performed two original songs, one of which she wrote during her year in Rennes. The song is featured in the 2016 movie, 1 Night. Current SYA France students also participated in the celebration: Anna Siegel sang and was accompanied by Elma Hoffman on piano, and Hileena Channell provided personal reflections on her year in Rennes through performance poetry.

Invited alumni speakers were Alice Conklin FR’74 FR’07P, professor of history at the Ohio State University, where she is an awarding-winning scholar and author, as well as a noted cultural, political and intellectual historian of Modern France and its Empire with a focus on the 20th century and Jess Baily FR’77, the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia and career Foreign Relations officer.

Conklin gave insight into the history of the U.S.-French relationship and how SYA caught “the crest of a tidal wave of postwar American enthusiasm for France.”

Baily shared insights and perspectives on his service to the United States, the power of SYA and the importance of building bridges. He said, “Those who participate in exchanges constitute a global network who understand the United States, and Americans who understand the wider world. They can communicate and navigate differences. All can be partners in solving the world’s challenges. This strengthens our national security, our economy, and our societies. Nurturing these relationships creates true allies.”

Speaking about the success of the weekend’s event, Hassan said, “Our deepest appreciation goes to the City of Rennes and to the many host families over the decades that have made SYA France the success that it has been for the past 50 years. Honoring SYA in the remarkable city of Rennes in spectacular locations like the Opera House and City Hall reminds us of our good fortune and our responsibility as global citizens. And that SYA’s role, now more than ever, is to continue to educate young people who are thoughtful, engaged, and talented, individuals who will most certainly make this world better for all of us.”

Following Rennes, many guests continued the celebration in Paris culminating with a cocktail reception at the Ambassador’s Residence. Foreign Service Officer Lisa Petzold FR’99 welcomed guests and shared her SYA story from that first transatlantic flight, to gaining a French sister to how this singular year launched her decision to spend her life and career living and working overseas, representing her country and being involved in cross cultural dialogue. (Read Petzold’s remark’s here.) Chargé d’Affaires Uzra S. Zeya congratulated SYA on its 50-year history in France and reinforced the positive mission of understanding foreign cultures and becoming global citizens. She said, “One of the core missions of the State Department is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries, through educational and cultural exchanges that support peaceful relations. And that is exactly what SYA is doing. When we talk to participants of State Department exchange programs before they leave, we emphasize the opportunity that their journey presents: the chance to bring the language, culture, and personal touch from their own country directly to the place they are visiting, and to learn as much as possible from their first-hand experience with a different culture. Each exchange participant is a mini-ambassador.” She described SYA as a “shining example of the important role private individuals and organizations can play in increasing dialogue between countries.”

Here’s looking forward to SYA’s continuing role in study abroad for future generations of young adults.

Thank You Letter from Trustees and Co-Chairs

Dear friends,

Thank you for joining the 50th Anniversary Celebration of SYA France! Whichever your year or role, your journey to Rennes shows SYA left an indelible mark on your – or your child’s – life! We hope you enjoyed connecting with over 350 fellow alumni, parents, faculty, French families and others. It was the presence of many SYA supporters like you that made the event most special.

After a richly eventful weekend — from classes to performances to speakers to excursions — we left feeling proud of SYA’s history and excited about SYA’s future. The warm hospitality and support offered by the city of Rennes, host families and partner organizations are still the same; yet, SYA is evolving. Students still learn about éxplication de texte, but anciens élèves were astonished to discover current students’ greater choice of classes, familiarity with Rennes’ landmarks, and school-supported travels throughout the European Union.

In order to memorialize and share the excitement generated by this milestone celebration, SYA will soon send a digital commemorative to the entire SYA community. If your return to Rennes inspired strong impressions or fun photos, please consider sharing them by April 14 at the links below. Your comments will help us carry this weekend's energy forward, as we work together to make SYA even stronger.

THANK YOU for helping to make SYA France's 50th memorable. We hope to see you at another SYA gathering soon.

À la prochaine,

Alexandra Alger FR’79 CN’12P
Kristin Lund Vosmik FR’81 FR’16P ES’17P
Trustees and Co-Chairs of the SYA France 50th Anniversary Committee

Highlights Of Events

Friday, March 24, 2017

Architectural Walking Tour of Old Rennes
3:00 p.m. | A faculty- and student-led architectural walking tour of Old Rennes to help reacquaint you with some old favorites and discover some new!
Family friendly

Mayoral Reception at Salons de l'Hôtel de Ville de Rennes, Place de la Mairie
6:30 p.m. | Join fellow alumni, faculty, parents, host families and local dignitaries as we celebrate the shared history of 50 years in Rennes, congratulate members of SYA France’s first class — the Class of SYA France 1968 — and honor the longstanding relationship with our French families.
For ages 16+

Leadership Recognition Dinner
8:30 p.m. | By special invitation
The Board of Trustees honors past and present leadership donors at a private dinner.

Saturday, March 25, 2017
Back to School: Classes with Faculty
8:00 a.m. | From French literature to history to language, go back to school for a lesson in today’s classroom as faculty expound on some of their favorite topics specially designed for you. Schedule to be provided. Class descriptions to follow.
Family friendly as space allows

Gastronomic-Guided Tour of le Marché des Lices
11:00 a.m. | Calling all food lovers, gourmets and culinary enthusiasts: the second largest open-air farmers market in France will get your taste buds tingling. From cheese to vegetables to oysters, we’ll explore a wide variety of foods from the best that Bretagne has to offer. Be sure to pick up a galette saucisse or kouign amann.
Family friendly

Open House at l’Institut Franco-Américain
TBD | The original home of SYA France, students attended classes here from 1967 until 1981 when SYA moved to its permanent home, Villa Alvarez. The longstanding partnership with the Institute continues today. For over 50 years, the Institute nurtured relationships between French citizens, Americans and lovers of American culture, to improve mutual cultural understanding.
Family friendly

Gallery Talk with J.P. Lemée at the Galerie DMA
4:00 p.m. | Attend a special, limited capacity gallery talk on the “Stoc An Vrac’h” exhibition, which brings together a summary of the past, present and future from Jean-Philippe Lemée. Following the talk, the group will walk to l’ Opéra for the Soirée de Gala.

Soirée de Gala at L'Opéra de Rennes
6:30 p.m. | The celebration culminates with the SYA France 50th Anniversary Reception at the grand Opera House. The festivities began with cocktail dînatoire and socializing before taking a seat in the performance hall for a formal program highlighting five decades of SYA France.
For ages 16+

Sunday, March 26, 2017 - Exploring Bretagne
In addition to the formal program, SYA is developing three optional per-person, fee-based excursions. To help us with planning, when you register please select the activity that interests you most from the list below. We will notify you when registration is opened for these activities.

Mont St. Michel
Travel to Mont St Michel by bus and be transported back to the Middle Ages to one of France’s most iconic images. From the slender spires, stout ramparts and rocky slopes of Mont St. Michel rising dramatically from the sea, enjoy an SYA guided tour and exploration of this fortified abbey steeped in art and history.

Omaha Beach and Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Travel by bus for an SYA guided tour of these historic landmarks of U.S. and France and history. Little evidence of D-Day remains as today Omaha Beach is a peaceful place with a beautiful stretch of golden sand.

A Day in Rennes
From Parc du Thabor to Musée des beaux-arts to Place Sainte-Anne, join a student-led tour through the centuries exploring the many charms of Rennes.

Monday, March 27, 2017
Café, Croissants and Conversation
8:30 a.m. | Over café et croissants, you will hear from students who will have just returned from a Global Issues Network Conference in Luxembourg and an opportunity to join the conversation about SYA's most recent undertakings and plans with President Tom Hassan and members of the Board of Trustees.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - Exploring Paris
Consider joining fellow SYAers in Paris after the weekend celebration. During the day you will be able to select from optional fee-based excursions. Enjoy the “City of Light” at night as we end the SYA France 50 celebration at the Ambassador’s Residence. We will notify you when registration is opened for these activities.

Daytime Excursions
Maison de Verre

9:00 a.m. | Join us for one of two one-and-a-half hour docent-led tour of the architecturally and historically significant glass home built in the 1920s and painstakingly restored by its owner, American architectural historian Robert Rubin FR’70. Each tour is limited capacity and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Musée National Picasso-Paris
10:30a.m. | Stay tuned for details on a docent-led tour at one of the museums. Art historian John Finlay FR’68 will be our guest commentator.

An Evening in Paris
6:30 p.m. | Save the date for a cocktail reception celebrating 50 years of SYA France at one of Paris’ historic buildings. An invitation will be emailed to include more information after January 20. Please note that space is limited and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.