In 2012, Dr. Agnès Belval-Ragone (1953-2020), a professor of French and Spanish at Shippensburg University (Shippensburg, PA), gathered a group of like-minded individuals who shared her vision for a partnership between her school and the community of Gros-Mangles on the island of La Gonâve, in Haiti. This was just the start of Project Gros Mangles, which has since flourished and, in her own words, is one of her greatest accomplishments.
Born May 6, 1953 in Oran, Algeria, Dr. Agnès Belval-Ragone retired in Salinas, CA after spending 13 years in Middletown, MD. A world explorer at heart, Agnès grew up in Algeria, lived in France, Spain, England, and Morocco, before settling in the United States. Her American journey took her from California to Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, before returning to the Pacific Coast in retirement.
Dr. Agnès Belval-Ragone was an accomplished scholar and teacher of French and Spanish, who received her Master’s degree from Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA), and her PhD from University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX). She joined the Shippensburg University department of Global Languages and Cultures in 1998, which she chaired for many years and strengthened with an inspiring program. A beloved teacher, she devoted a lot of time to her students, with whom she enjoyed sharing her passion for languages. As a sociolinguist, she pursued an ambitious research agenda on issues related to languages in contact, regularly publishing articles in specialized reviews and delivering talks at conferences. Her later work had focused mostly on Haitian Creole. Right before Dr. Belval-Ragone’s health issues caused her to abruptly retire, she had been preparing to spend a year in Benin, after being awarded a
prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study the influence of the
Fongbé language on the development of Haitian Creole.
In her spare time, Dr. Belval-Ragone loved to travel, read, swim, visit museums, as well as attend theatrical performances and concerts. In her drive to make the world a fairer, better place she volunteered for a number of organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and Head Start, and she helped Hispanic migrant workers in Pennsylvania. This urge to help those less fortunate was at the heart of Dr. Belval-Ragone’s mission as a pedagogue. She combined her devotion to teaching and her passion for helping others in organizing and leading service learning activities that connected our campus to the community at large, extending all the way to Haiti. In that regard, Project Gros Mangles is one of her greatest accomplishments: her vision, leadership and hard work over eight years contributed to the construction of a playground and a medical facility in Gros-Mangles. A beautiful tribute to her kind and generous spirit that lives on, the medical facility -- “Centre communautaire de santé Belval” -- opened in June 2020. The people of Gros-Mangles, who knew her as “Madame Agnès”, are so proud of the medical center that they just decided to name their soccer team the Belvals! With the reassurance that Dr. Belval-Ragone’s legacy will endure, we invite you to keep her contagious laughter and sunny disposition in your memories.
"I met Dr. Ragone on my first visit to Shippensburg University in 2017 prior to transferring from community college. She was my advisor and became my mentor. The very first time I met her she made me laugh and I sensed her warmth and caring. Have you ever heard stories about people who meet a person who drastically changed their life. It’s hard to believe until you are in the same situation. Well, Dr. Ragone was one of those ‘angels’ that God sends to positivity change our lives. She changed my life. Although I only knew her for a short period of time, she taught me the importance of education. I came to Shippensburg University without knowing where my future would lead. She gave me a few suggestions, such as becoming a French teacher, but I knew that becoming a teacher wasn’t for me. She then suggested Languages and Culture and a career in French translation . I found this really interesting. I became curious of other languages and cultures around the world. Dr. Ragone enabled me to think outside of the box. I started to understand questions that I never understood before. She opened my eyes to things of which I was previously unaware. Dr. Ragone was very energetic and you could tell that she loved her job. She was patient and took her time in making sure that her students understood what she was explaining. I was very lucky to have met her and have had the opportunity to be one of her students. Her ways will forever impact my life."
-Marie Jeanne | Alumni