France Honors Mark Pigott

February 4, 2015 | By French Culture

On Tuesday, February 3rd, Mark Pigott, Executive Chairman of PACCAR, Inc., was honored with the insignia of the Order of Arts and Letters by Thomas Michelon, Deputy Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy.

Chief Executive Officer of PACCAR from 1997 to 2014, Mark is recognized in both the US and France as a major patron of the arts and humanities. In March of this year, the Pigott family donated €1 million to the French National Library to allow it to establish scholarships for study in the arts, to purchase new conservation technology, and to restore the Manuscripts Reading Room. In addition, Mr. Pigott is the original Life Member of the American Friends of the Louvre and has generously supported the institution’s academic efforts through the Mark Pigott Lecture and Research Fund since 2010. In his remarks, Mr. Michelon highlighted Mark’s enduring connection to France, including his participation in the 1995 Tour de France.


Dear friends, chers amis,

I am delighted to welcome you to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, where I have the honor and privilege tonight of awarding Mark Pigott with the French Arts and Letters distinction, an award created in 1957 by the French Minister of Culture at the time, André Malraux.  It is bestowed upon great leaders like you, Mark, who have made extraordinary contributions to France.

It is a pleasure to see Cindy Pigott, your wife, and your friends and family who have come from near and far to join us tonight. 

Mark, in a commencement speech you gave at Canterbury School, you encouraged graduates to “get uncomfortable in another culture” You urged them to expand their horizons and to take rewarding, unexpected, and invigorating risks. 

You did this yourself by diving into French culture.  My country is lucky to have been chosen by a game-changing leader and an expert industrialist like you.

Especially in times of economic hardship, you have been a consistent and dedicated supporter of France’s most revered cultural institutions.  Your contributions to France’s cultural landscape are exceptional.  

Mark, you’ve said you “believe that people and companies alike are enriched by a good balance between work, education, and social commitment.”  You pull this balance off flawlessly.  From creating lecture series and scholarships to professorships and new centers, you have reached out and improved the offerings at nine universities worldwide.

You’ve stamped a truly American mark of trailblazing entrepreneurship in our world.  And in doing so you touched France deeply – for that we are most grateful.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Even if these words were not in your head when you came to France for the first time in 1975, they explain a lot about your commitment to French culture.  After your arrival in Paris, you lost no time in taking advantage of all the city had to offer. Most of the Impressionist paintings were still at the Jeu de Paume and the Orangerie Museums then, where you would become a regular.

Still, all this time spent in museums was not to the detriment of your other interests, bien au contraire. Maybe you’ll tell us about your participation in the Tour de France in 1995, an experience that left you with wonderful, vivid memories.

You faced other challenging episodes as Executive Chairman of a multinational corporation. You are one of the most respected authorities in the trucking industry, and your significant involvement with France began with PACCAR purchasing DAF trucks in 1996.

We are deeply grateful to you for having developed the employment in France after initiating a twenty-year partnership with Renault in 1998. This relationship is by all measures a success: in 2002 the truck manufactured at the Renault plant was named the European Truck of the Year.  DAF trucks now brings in over $500 million per year and has over 1500 employees in my country.

The factory in question, at Blainville-sur-Orne, is in a place of great significance for both the French and Americans. Only thirty miles from the site of the Allied landings, the plant stands as a testament to enduring collaboration and cooperation between our two countries. Mark, you have contributed immensely to the transatlantic business relationship.

The success of your company is matched by your family’s philanthropic support of our most important cultural institutions, specifically the Louvre and the Bibliothèque nationale. 

You have supported the American Friends of the Louvre for many years, and your generosity has enabled a Pigott Lecture Series endowment and propelled academic research into the future under the expert eye of the Louvre. 

And even greater is your impact at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which is only one of the many prestigious institutions you stand behind. 

You have been a great leader in supporting the Bibliothèque’s priceless heritage.  A passionate bibliophile, you asked the President Bruno Racine what the library needed most urgently.  There were three different areas in need of funds: renovation of the Manuscript Reading Room, a 3-D video microscope for examining documents, and two research fellowships per year in the fields of history, innovation, and technology.  You took on all three.  Today, each of your contributions is being used to the fullest.

In addition to being the prime cultural industry in France, books are a great part of French culture and have thrived at its core for centuries.  Literature has been one of France’s ways of increasing mutual understanding in the world. For that reason, we opened Albertine Books just a few months ago.  Places for reading and intellectual exchange are important in a bustling city like ours.  We can’t do this alone –we need role models and first-rate partners for French culture like you, Mark.

Your enthusiastic and wise spirit has clearly reached so many lively portals – from libraries, to museums, to educational institutions. Your philanthropic activities have earned you honors and awards from the Order of St. John, to the Order of the British Empire, to the St. George’s Society, and more, though these don’t begin to sum up your commitment. 

Though your legacy is great, you remain impressively humble about your inspiringly generous deeds.  In a letter accepting to receive the Arts and Letters award, you signed off “with humble thanks and tears of joy, Mark Pigott.” 

Tonight it is so clear that you have achieved much more than what this humble statement would suggest.

Mark, for your deep generosity, your longstanding commitment to building the invaluable transatlantic relationship, and your willingness to take on the role of Culture Pioneer and leader in all climates, I now bestow upon you the insignia of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters.

Cher Mark Pigott, au nom du gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des arts et des lettres.

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