Far From Home: ECTC professor travels to France

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By Robert Villanueva




For many people, the names Jean Grave and Olivier Messiaen might not be familiar. For Dr. Camille Hill, outgoing chairwoman for the Humanities division at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Grave and Messiaen are the reasons she is leaving Saturday for Paris, France, for four weeks. The division chairwoman is responsible for getting teachers together to submit reports. “Oh, I love Paris,” Hill said. The college professor teaches music and French. Grave, a French journalist and activist of the 1890s, is the focus of research Hill is doing for an upcoming paper to help her complete her master’s degree in French. With the help of a professor in France who specializes in the French Labor Movement, Hill will have access to documents from the 1890s. That, in part, prompted her return to Paris. “I’m doing this because I have a professor who’s an expert in it,” she said. She also has a study grant from the University of Louisville. But France is not new territory for Hill. “I made a study trip 16 years ago to the same place,” she said. Not only is Hill going to study newspapers from the late 19th century, but she has been invited to the home of another professor in France who shares her interests. “I’m just amazed that I got these invitations to the archives and these people’s homes,” Hill said. But this trip also is a chance for Hill to participate in events connected to the subject of a research paper she wrote during her 1992 study trip: Messiaen. “Messiaen was an organist for 60 years in one of the churches in Paris,” she said. Some years before Hill’s study trip, Messiaen had written an opera about St. Francis of Assisi. That caught her interest. “I wanted to do something on a French composer because I love France,” Hill said. What makes this year special is that it marks Messiaen’s 100th birthday anniversary. Numerous events in France throughout the year will honor Messiaen, who died in 1992. “So I had to go this year,” Dr. Hill said. During her 1992 visit to Paris, Hill met an American choir organist who went to Wheaton College in Illinois, just as Hill had. The two maintained contact through the years and Hill was invited to experience some of the events commemorating Messiaen’s birthday. Those events will be “mainly concerts and lectures,” Hill said. But the ECTC professor will be able to squeeze in a little sight-seeing. She plans to visit Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France. “I’ve never been there,” she said. Hill said the people she met in France during her past study trip were hospitable and she enjoyed their way of life. “The French work very hard, but they always take time to relax,” she said. In fact, the professor she met always took time to sit down with his family for dinner, “not just for 20 minutes or an hour, for two hours,” Hill said. “I think that’s wonderful.” Hill’s upcoming study trip combines things she loves: France, music and writing. In fact, her grandfather was French. In addition to the research aspect, the trip also should help her with the French class she’s teaching. “I need to go where I get to use the language,” Hill said. And her French students will not be forgotten during the professor’s study trip. “I’m sending them all postcards,” she said. Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.