Dear IES Abroad Alumni,
It saddens me to inform you that Paul Koutny, one of the founders of IES Abroad, passed away May 12 at the age of 86.
Paul founded IES Abroad in 1950, enrolling the first class of 23 American students in Vienna. Held as a political prisoner by the Nazis at the age of 17 for his activity in the anti-Nazi underground, Paul dedicated himself to rebuilding Austria after World War II. It was his year abroad at St. Thomas University, sponsored by the Fulbright Commission in 1949, that inspired his ambitious dream: the founding of an organization that would create life-changing experiences for young Americans and help bridge the cultural divide between two continents.
When we interviewed Paul for our 60th Anniversary he said, “During vacations, I hitchhiked extensively all over America and fell in love with [this] wonderful country. I felt that somehow I must make it possible for Americans of moderate means to go to Europe for a similar experience.” You can watch this interview with Paul here: IES Abroad Vienna 60th Anniversary Film.
It is rare for an organization to be originated by 3 twenty-four year olds committed to world peace to grow and thrive to the extent that IES Abroad has. It was truly a grassroots effort by three dedicated individuals – Paul Koutny and Clarence and Alberta Giese. As Dr. Morten Solvik, Vienna Center Director, wrote: “From the perspective of his [Paul’s] situation – a poor college student – dreaming of building a program that bridged a cultural divide to build human understanding was at once fabulous, idealistic, and, as some might have thought, highly improbable. Paul Koutny felt a need to create a living testimony to the value of human understanding.”
Since Paul founded IES Abroad, the organization has educated nearly 90,000 U.S. students and it has become the leading 3rd party program provider based upon a deep commitment to academic quality and intercultural growth in our students. In conversations with the three founders, I’ve heard their stories which are moving and inspiring. Paul was recognized in Vienna during IES Abroad’s 60th Anniversary Celebration and in recent years he met with several Vienna class reunions. He also shared his IES Abroad story with our students attending the Vienna Center. His last visit was only a month ago. Morten informs me that Paul mesmerized the students to the point that when the event ended, they followed him to another room to ask him more questions. He was a dynamic, charismatic, kind and generous person.
Thanks to the generosity of Bill Maroney, Bill Storch and John Wise (Vienna ’57-’58), as well as several other IES Abroad Vienna alumni, the Paul & Brita Koutny Founders Scholarship was established last year. Paul was thrilled to be honored, and the first Koutny Founders Scholarship recipient is studying in San José Costa Rica this term.
Our thoughts go out to Paul’s family, and we’re confident his legacy will live on through all of our future students. If you would like to send notes of condolence, please forward them to alumni@IESabroad.org and we will ensure they are delivered to Paul’s family.
Mary M. Dwyer, Ph. D.
President and CEO, IES Abroad
Click here for information about the Paul & Brita Koutney Founders Scholarship.