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John Lynn's kilt won't be the only object on display at commencement this May. The French and military history professor at the University regularly wears the Scottish garb when he plays the bagpipes for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Commencement, but at this year's ceremony, a Moroccan medal of honor will also hang around Lynn's neck.
Lynn is the recent recipient of the Ouissam Al Alaoui, one of Morocco's oldest and most prominent military awards. King Mohammed VI will present Lynn with the "Order of the Royal House of Morocco" at the Royal Palace in the capital city of Rabat Nov. 27.
"I think it's an honor over my head," Lynn said.
Lynn is the president of the United States Commission on Military History and the vice president of the Society for Military History, giving him the opportunity to travel and work extensively with Morocco. He is also part of an ongoing state partnership program between Morocco and the United States National Guard.
"I've been crusading for full recognition of Arabic as an international language," he said. "That's been very dear to the hearts of Moroccans."
Lynn said Morocco is one of the most progressive countries in the Arab world. Women enjoy property and divorce rights, and the government is moving closer to establish democracy. Developing friendly relations between the United States and Morocco is the first step in fostering peace between the West and the Islamic community, Lynn said.
"I've been preaching this notion of bridges between Islam and America," he said. "To me, Morocco could be a wonderful channel for that bridge."
The medal Lynn will receive for his work concerning American and Moroccan relations will also be presented to a French admiral and a Portuguese general.
The Ouissam Al Alaoui was established in 1913 to recognize significant military and civil accomplishments. Past winners include George Patton, the famous World War II army general, and Dwight Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States.
The decoration is a five-pointed star suspended from an orange ribbon with an Islamic inscription reading, "God is great, and Muhammad is his prophet." A parasol symbolizing Moroccan power and authority adorns the back.
Mark Youngberg, senior in LAS and student in one of Lynn's military history classes, said Lynn always manages to infuse his lectures with humor and sharp wit.
"He's by far one of the most entertaining professors I've had," he said. "It's hard not to pay attention when he's lecturing."
Sharon Michalove, associate director of undergraduate studies for the history department, has worked closely with Lynn for years and said he has received many awards since the beginning of his teaching career at the University in 1978. The Ouissam is one of Lynn's most prestigious awards to date.
"It always looks good when faculty are recognized internationally," Michalove said. "It just shows that someone is important as a scholar not just in Champaign-Urbana, but also all over the world ... John really is not like anyone else."
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