Amherst Magazine

Paul M. Proulx '65

Deceased December 5, 2005

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In Memory

At the time of his death late last year from a form of leukemia, our classmate, Paul Proulx, was living near Antigonish, a town in Nova Scotia, Canada. The only recent photograph available shows a bearded, cheerful-looking Paul standing in front of a mobile home. Though we remember Paul from his Amherst years as a quiet and private person, not deeply involved socially with classmates, he was not alone for the last years of his life. Much what I learned of Paul since Amherst was provided to me by Lucy Bacon, his longtime companion.

At Amherst, Paul majored in Spanish, and this interest in language, in fact, guided his life's work.  While still at the college, Paul spent time in Colombia and Peru, where he studied Quechua, an indigenous language. In the late '70s, he earned a Ph.D. in linguistics from Cornell Univ. Paul went on to teach at St. Francis Xavier and Brandon Univ., both in Canada. To Paul, the teaching was a means to continue his research into languages and the cultures they help describe; indeed, Paul referred to himself as a linguistic anthropologist. In his own words, he said, "I want to know what life would have been like before the dawn of history. I want to know how one fitted in as a member of a community. ... I approach this mainly through the study of reconstructed prehistoric languages and what they suggest about the social organization of pre-historic societies."

Paul's focus became the study of the Algonquin Indians and their language. He chose to live in Nova Scotia to be as close as possible to the Micmac Indian Reserve to further his research and writing. Paul's interest in native cultures went beyond the academic. In the early '80s, Paul was a nursing student in Halifax; he said the factual honesty of medical practice, as opposed to the assumptions of infallibility in the academic world, helped shape his approach to scholarly work from that experience onward.

Paul is survived by a brother, David, in Jonesport, ME.

Paul Ehrmann '65

 

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