Friday, May 25, 2007

Volunteer Spotlight: Merveilleuse Micheline

The National Weather Service has issued a gush alert, effective during the time this blog is being written. High winds of excessive admiration may cause considerable damage to the prose style of this post. Readers are advised to take shelter until the blogger's emotions come under control.

If you're in the mood for a little international experience but your passport has expired, drop by the circulation desk on Thursday afternoons. There you'll swear you've somehow stumbled into the lilt and color of the Champs Elysées, but really, you've just entered the aura of Micheline Lyons.

We at the library are smitten with Micheline. She's smart, chic, and insightful. She's incredibly well read. She leads the Women's International Club in the Community Room, a gathering of bright ladies discussing issues in fine French. When Micheline comes on Thursdays we gather around her like a flock of admiring daughters. We revel in her wit, her warmth, her casual elegance, her joyous energy.

Micheline is passionately involved in the turning fortunes of the world, and the quest for greater international understanding comes naturally to her. A Jewish Parisian whose family fled Hitler's forces during the second World War, Micheline came to the U.S. on the last non-military ship to cross the Atlantic and settled in New York City. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in a year and a half, then returned to France after the end of the war.

Back in Europe, Micheline worked in Geneva for the World Health Organization of the United Nations as a public information officer, covering meetings, writing press releases and feature stories. One night she attended a cabaret and noticed a handsome young actor ("He was in drag, and I noticed that he had the most beautiful legs!") named Gene Lyons. He wrote and performed witty satires on the local scene. Micheline and Gene married and had their three children in Geneva, continuing to work for the UN, until Gene was posted to the New York headquarters.

Eventually Gene decided to finish his doctorate, and the family headed to Hanover. Gene found a career at Dartmouth as professor, chair and dean, and Micheline co-founded the French program at Marion Cross School, and eventually taught at all levels, including French language, literature, and culture at Dartmouth. She was the executive director of the Rassias Foundation for Language and Culture. Through her work and Gene's, Micheline made friends of many of Dartmouth's famous visitors, and in her continuing search for greater understanding, she continues to read widely in world literature.

Micheline is yet another reason to treasure the connection to this community of readers. She's our one-woman City of Light.