Anne de Louvigny Stone, you are Senior Vice President and International Wealth Advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. You are also member of the board of Friends of IHES, director of ESSEC Business School Alumni Association in the USA, and director of Association des Amis des Grandes Écoles Françaises. You are a very active professional with an impressive curriculum and career path. What did Friends of IHES bring to you and what have you learned from this particular experience?
I started my adventure with IHES when I was President of the French Grandes Ecoles Alumni network. A lot of its members are alumni of prestigious French Grandes Ecoles of mathematics and science and have a great respect for the mission of IHES. I love my country and I have always been cognizant that mathematical research has a long-established history in France, from Pascal and Descartes to the Bourbaki group. Mathematics has been recognized early on, by the elite running the country, as a condition of a great nation. Napoleon the First believed in the importance of science in education – especially mathematics. He surrounded himself with some of the greatest mathematicians of his era and Ecole Polytechnique, founded in 1794 and the pillar of the Grandes Ecoles system, received an important attention from him. And mathematics has been an essential factor in France catching up with Great Britain during its industrial revolution.
Mathematics continues to be part of the DNA of our country. That is why I am proud to serve on the board of Friends of IHES, to help France face today’s issues. Other countries, especially in Asia, wish to take the lead in the field and making sure that France can keep its top position in sciences, especially in mathematics, is key for its survival as a leading nation. IHES is all about great minds and inspiring examples. Eight of its past and current permanent professors in mathematics have been awarded the Fields medal, seven of them being at IHES at the time of their award. During my tenure as a board member of Friends of IHES, I have seen Cedric Villani, now holder of the IHES-Université de Lyon Chair in Analysis, and Hugo Duminil-Copin being awarded the prestigious Fields Medal. I have heard Thibault Damour give a talk here about Black Holes. What a treat! A great country could not be excellent without mathematics and I am happy to serve France by contributing to this major task!
You graduated from prestigious French schools such as ESSEC Business School and Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, you started your career in France but have lived and worked in the US for over two decades now. In 2010, you received the Medal of Knight of the French National Order of Merit, an Order of State awarded by the President of France. You are an excellent representative of France in the US, you help and support French institutions such as IHES to develop its presence and outreach abroad. How do you see and feel your role and mission as an ambassador for your country?
The image of France in the US has gone through many stages. What does France mean today to our American friends? France has played an important role in the American history. Some of France’s greatest minds helped shape the American constitution and others participated in making the United States of America free from Great Britain. The French contributed to the creation of the American nation as we know it today.
Young generations do not always see the role we played in American history, paying more attention to other aspects of our culture such as fashion or gastronomy, or just admiring beautiful pictures of Paris on social media. Our role, as French ambassadors, is to organize events to commemorate the value that we have brought, with personalities like Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette who contributed to the victory of the American troops in the American War of Independence and Charles-Louis de Montesquieu who was involved in the making of the United States’ Constitution among so many others.
IHES is another perfect example of great minds that France shares with the world. Other French institutions are now present in the US, such as Institut Curie or Institut Pasteur. There are many ways of being a French ambassador in the US today and supporting France from here.
Recently, we have celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. IHES is particularly proud of all women researchers who have visited the Institute over the years, and advocates for a more inclusive science. You were recently included to the 2023 Forbes “Top Women Wealth Advisors Best-in-State” list. Being yourself a very inspiring example for girls who dare to dream big, what piece of advice would you give them?
I would first advise them not to fear anything. Girls need to dare and push the limits to excel, evolve and progress continuously. As a matter of fact, more and more young women are building successful scientific careers today. It will happen more and more, as girls are empowered by other women who are not scared to be great and just go for it. Nothing should stop girls from trying to get to the top.
Secondly, they should try to find men who will want to be their champions! Women will not make it without the support of men. More and more men are convinced that women can be leaders (my father certainly was!). When we listen to the leading women in the industry, they usually say that they have had great men as mentors or that their life partners are their biggest fans. There is often a man in the background supporting a leading woman.
Finally, they should never give up. We are seeing great women achieve incredible positions and then leave. They feel that they cannot do it all. Society needs to make sure they do not give up and stay in power by giving them all the support they need to succeed in their field of expertise.