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Paul Oren, Jr. left us peacefully July 23rd, 2003, days after celebrating his 81st birthday in Paris, France.
Born in Detroit, Michigan July 19th 1922, he graduated in 1940 from Highland Park High School (and from Cheshire Academy, Conn. where he crammed for College Boards).
He entered the Yale College Class of 1944 with which he graduated retroactively after three years service in the Army as an enlisted man. He began in the spring of 1943, first as a Mountain Infantry ski-trooper, then, after myopia was detected, went on to complete the course equivalent of a master's degree in psychology at the Univ. of Iowa. He was then shipped to England as a heavy machine-gunner, (after the evidence of myopia had been lost) but was pulled out of line to act as an interviewer in a Replacement Depot thanks to the Iowa training. He climbed the cliff at Omaha Beach once it had been secured, thus sparing the Germans his near-sighted targetry. He later spent many months keeping records on prisoners who did not fit the profile for being turned over to the French for farm labor (e.g. nurses, slave laborers, so-called 'rabid Nazis' and Hungarian cavalry), after which he spent three months at the University of Nancy. While there, he independently did a study of the regional 'resistance' that was later accepted as his senior thesis by Yale's Sociology Department. This, coupled with the work done at Iowa, allowed him to graduate retroactively.
During this period in Europe, he spent four months at the University of Grenoble, where he pretended to study papermaking while skiing and courting co-ed and budding actress Francine Forme. They were married after he lured her away from the first drama troupe attempting to decentralize the French theater, and she went on to become the first graduate student at Connecticut College for Women in New London (that a garbled telegram had characterized as 'comedians college'). Graduate student Quonset-hut dwelling followed, where Paul worked on his masters degree at Yale ('47).
He obtained his doctorate four years later based on a statistical field study he did on class and ethnicity among the boys of Ansonia, Connecticut (noted photographer Gordon Parks covered the study for a Life Magazine cover story). After two years as an assistant professor of Sociology at Kent State University in Ohio, Paul and Francine, with a now five-year old son, went for a year of post-doctoral Fulbright research on Parisian youth. Paul unsuccessfully attempted to document Disraeli's concept of a double S-shaped break between the aristocracy and the 'lumpens', with the strivers of a capitalist economy falling in between. (He failed because, despite unprecedented access to the school system, the lower category had 'dropped out' by fourteen and the upper category wasn't represented in even the 'best' lycees.) Francine, who was doing masters research in psychology for Kent State, studied the five-year-olds extensively, becoming the 'dame aux images' in Ecoles Maternelles in different milieus and found, when compared to others, a dramatic reversal in forms of aggressivity between boys and girls who had been characterized by their teachers as having come from 'disorganized' families.
After much involvement with the nascent Society for the Study of Social Problems and presenting papers on U.S. and middle class French perceptions of social hierarchy and on their opposing concepts of 'infancy' and 'adulthood' (and the route between them), he began a book contrasting U. S., French and Japanese upbringing. This project was interrupted in 1957-58 by a Fulbright Professorship in sociology at the University of the Philippines and the Institute of Asian Studies, and now, with two new young sons in the family, he directed graduate students in 'evaluation studies' of the U. S.-subsidized Community Development Program resulting in an article entitled "Community Development: The Myth of Painless Metamorphosis" that, he was informed, moved the Embassy to find him 'persona-non-grata'.
On their return to the U.S. in 1958, Paul was offered the opportunity to found a Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Vermont (one of the last hold-outs), where he became a Full Professor while building a curriculum around an introductory ethnology course of study, followed, for those who hoped to become 'majors', by a course in conceptual theory (which he later realized was what he had received from Raymond 'Jungle Jim' Kennedy and James Leyburn on Sumner and Keller in his second year at Yale).
After spending seven years building a dynamic team and curriculum, he gave up 'tenure' for a family return to France, where the reluctant nine and eleven-year-olds were thrown from bucolic Vermont into the French school system, while Daddy taught part-time at Columbia University's and the Educational Branch of the U.S. State Department's (bad communication with Manila?) Institute of American Studies on the Place de l'Odeon in Paris. At the same time, he worked on his new cubic formulations (encouraged chiefly by the political scientist Theodore Lowi) and donned leotards to study mime with Jacques Le Coq, who had been a fellow troupe member with Francine in the 'apres-guerre'.
Then came 'soixante-huit'. As a sop to the unregenerated revolutionaries, they were presented with a freshly-constructed "experimental" university in the Bois de Vincennes (Universite de Paris 8, Faculte Experimentale de Vincennes) where both he and Francine were hired to teach 'American-style' in its small, crowded classrooms where student input was demanded. (As a parallel sop to the right, a Harvard Business School-type university was created, Universite de Paris 9, Dauphine, where his 3rd son now teaches, after studying Political Economy at Vincennes, Economics at Dauphine and the Sorbonne, and seven years in California.) Because of leftists' rejection of election restrictions, Paris 8 was unsuccessfully managed by its small minority of Communist Party sympathizers who advocated an East German model of top-down education. Nevertheless, it led the French academic world in research, publications and vitality for ten years until all Parliamentary parties unanimously decided to have its site bulldozed and its functions transferred to the Communist-controlled suburb of St. Denis to the north. During that seminal time, Paris 8 was the most stimulating place in the world to teach, one where Paul was able to institute a new course every year. He retired in 1990, two years after Francine's death.
From that point on until his death, he was attempting to complete the hypercubic project, dividing each year between Paris and glorious Vermont, visiting with sons' families (six grandchildren, two with a French mother, two with a Venezuelan one and two with an American one brought up in South Africa and Japan).
The photo above was taken at his Italian olive mill across the border from Menton, France in about 1990.
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