Albina du Boisrouvray Receives France’s Highest Honor: Transforming Tragedy into Humanitarian Action

by Harvard FXB Staff

On March 14, 2017, Albina du Boisrouvray was awarded the honor of Officier de la Légion d’honneur, France’s highest order of merit, in a ceremony at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris, France.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, presided over the ceremony attended by close friends and family, including Bernard Kouchner, the founder of Médecins sans Frontières, with whom she worked for two years when beginning her humanitarian work.

In giving the award, Ayrault noted that du Boisrouvray had transformed her personal tragedy (the death of her son François-Xavier) into action on behalf of those suffering worldwide. He highlighted her engagement, her courage, and her generosity.

The death of her only child, François-Xavier, at age 24 during a helicopter mission in Mali, precipitated a dramatic change in Albina du Boisrouvray’s life. François-Xavier Bagnoud had been a helicopter pilot who specialized in rescue operations and dedicated his life to providing assistance to others. His death led du Boisrouvray to walk away from a successful career as a film producer to champion the cause of the tens of millions of vulnerable children left in the wake of the devastating AIDS pandemic. Since then, she has devoted all her energy, creativity, and vast experience to humanitarian causes, poverty, and research.

The founding of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights, in 1993, was the product of the remarkable generosity of Albina du Boisrouvray. Under the leadership of current FXB director Dr. Jennifer Leaning, the Center conducts rigorous interdisciplinary investigations of the threats to health and wellbeing faced by those oppressed by discrimination, poverty, and conflict worldwide and engages in strategic efforts to promote equity and dignity for all children and families. Harvard FXB continues to benefit from the wisdom and insight of du Boisrouvray as she serves as Chairperson of the Harvard FXB Advisory Committee.

In receiving this most high honor from the French government, du Boisrouvray dedicated it to her son and to those who work with FXB projects and institutions in many countries. She urged all to take positive action to improve the world. At the Harvard FXB Center, we express our warmest congratulations on the occasion of her award and express our deepest appreciation for her encouragement and her enduring example.