In memoriam: Paul Koutney passes away

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Paul Koutney at our IES class reunion in Wien in October 2011

Editor’s note: The following is a tribute to Paul Koutney, co-founder of IES, by Morten Solvik, current director of IES Abroad in Vienna. Paul Koutney, a young Austrian, and Clarence Giese, a young American, founded IES in 1950. They were operating the Vienna program during the years we were students there. Herr Koutney accompanied us in Vienna at the reunion for the class of 1960-61 in October 2011. We were looking forward to being with him again at our upcoming Vienna reunion in October 2013 for the classes of 1959-64.

It is with great regret that I report that the death of Paul Koutny, the man whose vision led to the founding of IES Abroad.

Held as a political prisoner by the Nazis in his late teens, Paul immediately set to work to help in the rebuilding of his native country of Austria after the Second World War. It was his year abroad as a student in the United States from 1949 to 1950 that inspired a truly ambitious dream: the founding of an organization already in the following academic year that would make this life-changing experience available to young Americans wanting to come to Europe and thus help bridge the cultural differences between two continents. After making arrangements for the very first IES center in Vienna, Paul went on start other locations for this grand enterprise, in Freiburg, Madrid, Paris.

It was my pleasure and privilege to get to know Paul during his last years, inviting him to take part in our 60th anniversary celebration in Vienna, presenting him with news of the founding of IES’s Paul and Brita Koutny Founders Scholarship, to have lunch now and then, and to have him come to give talks to our students. His last presentation for us was not quite four weeks ago. He was clearly feeling weak, but the more he spoke, the more his strength returned to him and the more he captivated his already enthralled audience. Even after the hour was up, a sizable number of students followed him into another room to continue the session.

Paul was a truly engaging human being, ever curious to know more, pushing the boundaries of the possible all the while maintaining a genuine concern for those around him. He passed away on the 12th May 2013 at the age of 86, but his legacy will continue to inspire so many of us who have grown by being part of IES Abroad and even more who have yet to discover its riches.

Morten Solvik
Center Director
IES Abroad Vienna

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