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Colleagues remember professor’s hook shot, stories of ‘early years’

June 08, 2009

George Edward Paulsen, 1923-2009

George Paulsen, an ASU professor emeritus of history, died June 1 at the age of 86. He was an ASU faculty member from 1959 until his retirement in 1991.

Paulsen, who is widely published with works on U.S.-Chinese diplomatic history and international investment interests in the American Southwest, taught undergraduate courses on U.S. diplomatic history and the history of the U.S. Constitution. He served on numerous graduate dissertation committees and directed the ASU History Department's graduate studies program throughout much of the 1970s.

Born in Bogota, N.J., in 1923, Paulsen served as a U.S. naval officer in the Pacific theater in World War II. Following the war, he pursued advanced degrees in history, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1949 from Hobart College and a doctorate in 1959 from Ohio State University, where he was a student of Foster Rhea Dulles.

At ASU, Paulsen was known among basketball players in the department for his unorthodox hook shot. He also regaled his colleagues with accounts of the early years of the ASU History Department when its graduate program was small and its library resources limited.

According to history colleague Stephen Batalden, Paulsen was an ardent Democrat and longtime member of the American Civil Liberties Union, who lived modestly, rarely driving his 1965 Plymouth Barracuda out of its place in the garage.

Two years ago Paulsen sustained serious head and neck injuries in a bicycle accident in Tempe, never fully regaining his health, though he continued to read widely until the last weeks of his life, according to Batalden, director of ASU's Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"George came to the department immediately after the 1958 plebiscite that launched ASU as a graduate degree-granting university, and served as one of the early leaders in the critical transition when the department moved from a small teacher-training unit to a nationally recognized Ph.D. degree granting department," said Batalden.

Paulsen is survived by a host of admiring colleagues, neighbors and friends, and by his nephew James Gallece of Texas and nieces Diane Sainsbury of Massachusetts and Janet Paparelli of Florida.

Memorial contributions may be made payable to the ASU Foundation for the benefit of the ASU History Department, P.O. Box 874302, Tempe, AZ, 85287-4302.