An associate professor in Rajasthan University’s Department of Foreign Languages here has been nominated for the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur (national order of the legion of honour) – the highest decoration in France – in recognition of her outstanding contribution to French education and culture in the State.

The honour will be conferred on Dr. Asha Pande – the founder of the Indo-French Cultural Society – shortly at a felicitation ceremony in recognition of her distinguished work in the field of French education and research for the past 27 years. The Rajasthan University now conducts a post-graduate course in French, while six students are engaged in research in the field.

Dr. Pande told The Hindu here on Wednesday that she had made consistent efforts for promotion of French language ever since she came to Jaipur from her hometown, Almora in Uttarakhand, in 1977. As a result of Dr. Pande’s tireless work, about 7,000 students in Rajasthan are presently learning the modern European language and 25 schools and 10 colleges in Jaipur are conducting various courses in French.

Dr. Pande, presently heading the university’s Dramatics Department, said her efforts had improved employability of youngsters through the learning of French and ensured jobs to hundreds of her students in India and abroad. “As a mentor of students, I have tried to improve their personality by exposing them to the French culture and way of life.”

The French Embassy officials were regularly invited to the university here during the creative workshops and French plays and talks. France’s Secretary, Foreign Affairs, has informed Dr. Pande that the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, has nominated her to the highest civilian award of that country.

Rajasthan University Vice-Chancellor Furqan Qamar has described Dr. Pande’s nomination as a “remarkable achievement” and expressed happiness over the senior faculty member getting the French honour in recognition of her academic work spanning three decades.

The French order, established by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802, is awarded for distinguished work in culture, science, army, industry and commerce. It is divided into five categories – chevalier (knight), officier (officer), commandeur (commander), grand officier (grand officer) and grand’croix (grand cross).

Though the membership in the Légion is restricted to French nationals, foreign citizens who have served France or the ideals it upholds may receive a distinction of the Légion, which is nearly the same thing as membership in the Légion.

The previous Indian recipients of the decoration include legendary film-maker Satyajit Ray (1987), Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan (1995), sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar (2000), environmentalist R.K. Pachauri (2006) and Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan (2007).