Opening Doors to Cultural Education

Tab 1

Fall 2012


St. Louis native Jane Robert loved the beauty of the French language from the moment she took her first language class in high school. Although she dreamed of visiting Paris for years, she never thought she’d be able to afford such a trip. That is, until Robert’s college French professor at Webster University, Jacques Chicoineau, nominated her for a scholarship that would pay for a year-long study abroad program in Paris.

 

Jane Robert uses her passion for French culture to inspire others;                                          photo by David Torrence

After arriving in June 1967, the largest strike France had ever known ensued in 1968. Students and more than 11 million workers protested their living and working conditions as riots broke out throughout the city.

Robert and a few of her classmates met in dorms, cafes and a professor’s apartment to continue their schooling, even enduring painful tear gas while trying to get to class. Only 10 percent of the students received their diplomas that year, Robert says, and she was one of the few who graduated.

That passion for French culture has lasted a lifetime, earning Robert knighthood in the Academic Palms and French Legion of Honor, both bestowed to her by the French government for her efforts to promote French language education in the United States.

After receiving her master’s degree, Robert spent eight years teaching French at Parkway West High School in the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin, MO. She married her husband, Bruce Robert, in 1979 and began teaching French at Saint Louis University in the early 1980s. After having their son, Patrick, Robert began volunteering at his elementary school and tutoring business men and women in French.

 

 

Tab 2

Fall 2012


The Importance of Giving Back

But Robert still felt a calling to continue to give back. She earned a U.S. State Department grant to help eight cities, including St. Louis and Lyon, France, “share solutions on successfully integrating disadvantaged and immigrant populations into their communities.”

 

“I’m a firm believer in that old phrase, ‘We either pay now or pay later,’” Robert says. “If we don’t pay for education, we’ll pay for prisons, police and correctional institutions.”

 

Several years later, Robert and others, including former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl, realized disadvantaged students from inner city neighborhoods needed a safe place to learn. In 2009, Robert and her husband, along with others, donated money to help create the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools Inc., which began with French and Spanish language immersion elementary charter schools. 

“U.S. Bank really listened,” Robert says. “As we expressed our needs and concerns, U.S. Bank helped us work toward these goals. Without them we couldn’t do what we want to do.”

 

The couple then focused their attention on other charitable avenues. They donated funds to St. Louis’ Marian Middle School, which helps poverty-stricken inner city girls prepare for college. They also created the Jane and Bruce Robert Professorship in French and Francophone Studies at Webster University to recruit a full-time, continuing faculty member and infused a similar endowment at the Saint Louis University School of Law.

 

“People who are donors do not give money away, they invest,” she says. “We felt that every dollar we gave to these institutions would come back a thousand fold, with good students and good citizens in the community.”  

 

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