Dr. Omer E. Boivin, a prominent Fall River physician, was a life-long student of the French language and culture. He believed that Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMass Dartmouth) represented the best opportunity to keep the French language alive, and to educate area residents about the culture and history of France. To that end, in April of 1985, on behalf of himself and his late wife Laurette M. Boivin, Dr. Boivin donated an annuity worth $100,000 for the creation of Omer E. and Laurette M. Boivin Center for French Language and Culture. At left is a photograph of Dr. Boivin and SMU President Brazil announcing the gift at the SMU Board of Trustees Meeting, April 11, 1985.
The Boivin Center for French Language and Culture here at UMass Dartmouth promotes the teaching of and appreciation of French language and culture and acts as a catalyst for French studies at the university and in the region. The Center was founded to be an enduring symbol and constant testimonial to the interest of Omer E. and Laurette M. Boivin in the study, promotion, and preservation of French language and culture.
Dr. Boivin was born in Fall River in 1890, son of Stanislaus and Adeline (Dupuis) Boivin, who were both French Canadian immigrants. He was educated at Notre Dame College in Fall River, and attended Milton University in Baltimore and the University of Maryland Medical College, graduating in 1912. He began practicing medicine in 1913, but not full time until he returned to Fall River in 1921. He was a specialist in urology and surgery, serving as chief of the urological staff at St. Anne’s Hospital for over forty years.
Dr. Boivin was active in the French Canadian immigrant community. He was a charter member of the Richelieu Club in Fall River, and was member and vice president of L’Union St. Jean Baptistse d’Amerique and was its medical director from 1930-1934. Dr. Boivin maintained a long relationship with Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River and the Brothers of Christian Instruction who taught there. In 1987 he established a $100,000 scholarship fund. In October of 1985 he presented St. Anne’s Hospital with an endowment, and in 1987 presented a similar endowment to Charlton Memorial Hospital. Dr. Boivin died in 1989 at the age of 99.
Dr. Lewis Kamm, a professor of French literature and Computer Science, was appointed the Center’s first director. Founding board members of the Center were Dr. Douglas Douglas, Norman Zalkind, Dr. Kevin Hargreaves, Dr. Margaret Miller, Dr. James Place, and Dr. Melvin Yoken. Four local community member representatives were appointed to be on the Center’s board as well. They were Josephine Perrault, Armand Dellaire, Donald Dufour, and Lillian Lamoureux. The Center’s current director is Dr. Melvin Yoken, whose photo is to the right.
One of the Center’s first activities was to establish a certificate program in International Marketing/French. The Boivin Center has awarded scholarships annually to freshmen and upper classmen at UMass Dartmouth since 1997. Each year the Center sponsors several public programs highlighting French culture. Among the distinguished guests that they have invited to campus are Julia Child, Florence Delay, Jean-Claude Baker, Sophie Freud, Lucie Therrien, Josee Vachon, Frederique Hebrard and Louis Velle, Annie Royer, Art Buchwald, and Marcel Marceau.
The papers of Dr. Omer Boivin are in the Archives and Special Collections, MC 10. For information on current programs, see the Boivin Center of French Culture and Language web site at UMass Dartmouth.
Guila Kessous and Kathleen Turner, 2014