His most recent scholarship delivering journey in Việt Nam began from August 23 to September 9, 2012. During this two-week trans-Việt Namjourney, Professor Vallet and Trần Thanh Vân and his wife personally handed the scholarships to the students in southern Hồ Chí Minh City, the central highlands city of Đà Lạt, central cities of Đà Nẵng, Huế, Đồng Hới, Vinh and the capital of Hà Nội in the north.
The trip proved physically demanding even for young people, let alone for this 65-year-old philanthropist.
Vallet did fall ill from harsh terrain and inclement weather several times during the trip.
Yet the trip was never disrupted because of that.
At a scholarship awarding ceremony held in northern Quảng Bình province, Vallet said:
“As a historian, I learned that the American troops bombarded this place with countless ‘bomb rains’!”
“I hope that today sensible people in the US and the world over compensate the youths in Quảng Binh province with ‘a scholarship for every bomb pit,’ the professor urged…
Yesterday’s ‘bomb downpours’ are now to be replaced with ‘scholarship showers.’”
As a descendant of the long-standing Vallet family, Odon Vallet, whose full name is Odon Pierre Maurice Marie Vallet, was born in 1947 in Paris, France.
In 1970, Vallet graduated from Sciences-Po, before obtaining two doctoral degrees in law and science of religions in 1985.
He became a lecturer at the famous France-based Sorbonne University.
The professor is also a renowned philosophical writer, who is often asked by the French Television and several prestigious newspapers in Paris to comment on causes of religious conflicts.
Though graduating from the administrative school in Paris, Vallet chose not to go for a political career, but became a scientist instead.
Odon Vallet’s father is Jean Vallet who later became CEO and chair of the managing board insurance company GPA-Athéna.
When he was on his deathbed following a car accident in 1954, he left his whole fortune worth 100 million euros to his son, telling him:
You should love the poor people!
Among these unfortunate people, there do exist those with intelligent brains and kind hearts.”
Acting on his father’s final words, Odon Vallet did not spend that fortune for himself; instead he deposited the whole sum in banks and used the interest from it as scholarships for high performing students in France, Việt Nam and Benin- a small country in western Africa on a yearly basis.
He lives a solitary, unmarried life in a humble apartment near the Luxembourg flower garden amidst the hustle and bustle of Paris.
The casually dressed professor goes to work by bus or metro every day.
Once, Vallet said that the Vietnamese youths have helped soothe his loneliness.
As an Oriental researcher, he is greatly intrigued by Vietnamese and Asian cultures and keeps quite a lot of Oriental artifacts in his home, including a Buddha statue on his desk and a lacquer painting depicting the serene Khuê Văn chamber, the Thiền Quang well nearby and the rows of age-old tombstones with the names of the Vietnamese top performing exam takers.
Vallet is also a keen reader of ancient Chinese philosophical, educational masterpieces, including the Analects of Confucius.
After 12 years’ dedication to the mission of awarding scholarships to Vietnamese students, Odon Vallet often says:
“You [scholarship recipients] are 100% Vietnamese, but allow me to call myself as being 200% Vietnamese, as I’m in too much love with the nation of Uncle Hồ [President Hồ Chí Minh].”
He often told the scholarship recipients:
“Don’t thank me.
You should thank your parents who gave birth to you and brought you up and your teachers who offered you knowledge.”
A public administration and religious history professor at Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and Paris VII Diderot, Odon Vallet fully realizes the importance of acquiring a good education.
Starting in 1997, Gặp gỡ Viet Nam Việt Nam (Rencontres du Việt Nam or Meet Việt Nam), a scientific and educational society founded in 1993 by Dr. Trần Thanh Vân, an expatriate Vietnamese physicist, commenced presenting money scholarships to the brilliant students of the Hà Nội National University.
Motivated by this noble act, Odon Vallet joined in the movement.
Earlier, the professor decided in 1999 to devote all of his family inheritance, worth 100 million euros ($125 million), to a scholarship fund for disadvantaged students who excel in studies and research activities in France and outside France.
Since 2001, through Meet Vietnam organisation, Odon Vallet scholarships have been granted to thousands of Vietnamese students nationwide.
Starting with 800 scholarships in 2001, 10 years later the number reached 2,250 scholarships, worth a total of VND 15 billion ($US 728,112).
In 2012, due to price fall, though the number of scholarships remained at 2,250, each scholarship gains in value, from VND 6 million ($US 291) to VND 7 million ($US 340) for high school students and from VND 9 million ($US 437) to VND 11 million ($534) for university students, adding up to VND 18 billion (US$ 873,735) in total.
In 2009, Odon Vallet received the BNP Paribas prize for his philanthropist contributions.
As Odon Vallet bid farewell to return to Paris, he promised to be back in Việt Nam next autumn with even more scholarships.