A Student and His Adoptive Family

This spring, Holden Ferry ’11 presented Diane Windham Shaw, special collections librarian and College archivist, with a full translation into French of A Son and His Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington, the catalog for an exhibition mounted at Mount Vernon and at Lafayette in 2007, during the College’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Marquis de Lafayette. Ferry, a French major, explains.

Student with Adoptive Family“When I arrived at Lafayette in the fall of 2007, the beginning of my freshman year, each student was given a copy of A Son and His Adoptive Father, as the exhibition was on display in the Williams Center for the Arts at the time. I saw the exhibit and read the book and kept it on my bookshelf at home, as I thought it was a nice story.

“But it really took on a whole new meaning for me last year when I studied in Grenoble, France. I was there for the entire academic year and was fortunate to find a French family — the Amiel family —who were looking for a native English-speaker to give English lessons to their 10-year-old son. I was very happy to accept their offer and began to stop by their apartment once a week to meet with their son.

“From the outset, I could tell that there was something very special about my relationship with this family. We got along very well together, and often a small conversation that began as I was buttoning up my coat and making my way to the door would lead to my staying for dinner, and eventually we would have to force ourselves to part ways in the early hours of the morning. I found myself spending more and more time with the Amiels, accompanying them on trips to visit their family and friends in Provence and Pyrénées. I felt I had really become accepted as a member of their family, and we often joked that they had adopted me. That’s what made me think of this book, A Son and His Adoptive Father.

“When I returned home to Chicago last summer, I immediately sent the book to the Amiels as a symbol of our friendship. Gerard, the father, was very touched by the story and spent the entire summer translating it into French. Yesterday [March 2], I received a package with the copy of the translation, which you now have in your possession along with a note instructing me to give the translation to the Lafayette College library. We both thought that it might be nice to have a French translation of this story in the archives of the library, not only as a symbol of our friendship but also of that of George Washington and Lafayette himself, and of France and the United States.”