Summa Cum Laude: Dr. Mel Yoken
The same can be said of University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth (UMD) French Professor Dr. Mel Yoken.
Though Yoken has officially retired after 50 years of teaching, he remains a life-long student who continues to inspire with his wisdom and his outlook on life.
"I always liked languages," says the devoted Francophile who started his
own studies of the language while a student at the B.M.C. Durfee School
in Fall River.
"One day, during my junior year, I sat down with my father and asked him his
opinion about a fifth subject to take.
strongly suggested I take French."
Living in the Fall River area, Yoken
was surrounded by French language and culture.
Clearly, this cultural submersion had an impact upon him, as did his
"Although my father worked with his
father in the family store," Yoken
true passion was teaching.
happiest moments were in the classroom the last 20 years (or so) in his
I guess...I inherited this love of teaching from him!"
While a sophomore at the Durfee, Yoken
started a weekly radio show called "Teen Party" that soon became the most popular show on WALE.
Years later, Yoken
was asked to come back to the station by long-time friend Jean Caya Bancroft.
invited me to speak mainly about my literary activities," Yoken
"I soon became her
co-host, and appeared on over 450 shows."
Yoken came to UMD after teaching high school French in Newton and two years teaching as a graduate student at UMass-Amherst.
Since joining the faculty at UMD in 1966, Yoken has also served as faculty advisor to the French Club and the Canadian Studies Program.
Named a Chancellor Professor in 2000 and Chancellor Professor Emeritus of French Language in 2008, Yoken takes comfort and pride in the fact that so many of his students have gone on to teach and love French.
"I truly love being at UMD
, " Yoken
says, "and am so proud of what it has become!"
Having visited France more than 150 times, Yoken
brings an intimate understanding of the home of Liberté, égalité, fraternité to Massachusetts and beyond.
Yoken has also served as the director of UMD's Boivin Center for French Language and Culture and as Chair of Programs for the Claire T. Carney Library Associates.
wife Cindy are also life members of the French National Society
"I plan manifold programs for so many groups that I can't keep track," Yoken smiles, admitting that he
has become "ubiquitous" on campus.
packed passport and many demands on his
firmly believes that there is no place like home.
"Fall River means the world to me," says the ardent and appreciated supporter.
In 1988, The Richelieu Club of Fall River
began presenting an annual scholarship to worthy French students in Yoken's honor.
In 2008, Yoken served his beloved high school as keynote speaker at the induction for the National Honor Society.
has also been named a Distinguished Alumnus at the Durfee.
"Of all my honors," he
says, "that was one of the best!"
Apparently, many of his
colleagues think Yoken
is also one of the best.
"Mel Yoken is extremely beloved," notes Dr. Joseph Vinci, founder of UMD's Language Department.
is a man of integrity," adds former colleague Dr. William Harris.
"My friend, Mel Yoken…is one of our leading spokesmen for French language study in the United States," notes Yale Professor Dr. Nelson Brooks, adding that Yoken is also "extremely modest about everything he does."
When not teaching or serving his
students in other capacities, Yoken
lectures internationally on all things French and has also written and translated numerous literary works.
"I have always loved and been fascinated by literature," says Yoken, who was a member of the nominating committee for the Nobel Prize for Literature from 1971-2011, "and still read voraciously."
A collection of over 330,000 pages of Yoken's own written materials is held at the John Hay Library at Brown University, where Yoken received his Masters degree.
To what does Yoken
"I love life and I love living," he