In the fall of 1989, a group of 34 students from The University of Texas (UT) at Austin was selected for a pilot program: the Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program (NSP). Since that date, over 500 students and 16 professors have shared in the common endeavor of keeping the memories of the Second World War alive by studying its causes, conduct, consequences, and contemporary representations first in the classroom, then in Normandy, Paris, and elsewhere by visiting battlefields, museums and monuments as well as encountering witnesses to/and participants in the war. Sites of the Great War — the Somme valley, Verdun — have also been visited.
The Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program began in the Spring of 1990 as a joint venture between the University of Texas and The Battle of Normandy Foundation, replaced in 1995 by the Franco-American Normandy Scholar Foundation. Since 1997, the NSP has been entirely run by the University of Texas faculty and staff and funded through donations by friends of the Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program, the College of Liberal Arts, and a program fee.
While the goals of the program have remained the same, its faculty, its location in Normandy, and the duration of the Normandy and Paris segment have changed over the years. After being housed in a succession of hotels ranging from the luxurious to the spartan, the Normandy Scholars (NS) resided for several years in the attractively restored 12th century Abbaye d'Ardenne owned by the Conseil Regional de Basse Normandie in Caen. The Abbaye d'Ardenne has since 1999 become an archival repository and cultural center for IMEC, Institut Memoires de l'edition Contemporaine.
The first-year experiment (1990) involved the longest stay abroad — two months at the Otelinn and Open Hotels, located in the vicinity of the Memorial Museum where classes were held. Since then, the segment of the NSP away from Austin has lasted approximately three weeks, starting soon after the end of classes in May, during the final examination period.
The initial network of French families was an essential staple of our stay in Normandy when the group was headquartered in Caen. Mme Marie-Laure Bouthors served as resourceful intermediary in Caen, making sure that the host family contacts functioned smoothly.
Since 2001, the NS have for the most part resided at the Moulin Morin (formerly the Black Swan Mill) near Bayeux, 30 km west of Caen and minutes away from the D-Day landing beaches. Le Moulin Morin once again served as the Normandy residence in 2006.
Since 2004, the NS have divided their time between Paris, Normandy, Berlin, and London. In 2013, the NSP added Krakow, Poland to the intinerary.
Frank Denius (right) with History Dept. Chair Alan Tully at Pro Bene Meritis Awards banquet, April 2010
From the College of Liberal Arts' fall 2010 Life & Letters newsletter:
A Veteran's Dedication: Frank Denius' commitment helps students understand World War II
Each spring, Frank Denius meets with a group of about 20 University of Texas at Austin students who are about to leave for Europe as part of the Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program.
And each fall, Denius — the noted philanthropist, businessman and decorated World War II veteran — meets with some of those students after they’ve returned. They give him scrapbooks and photos of their studies abroad. And he sees just how powerful it is to learn about World War II on the battlefields of Europe.