Paul Conn, a leader in the fields of academics, politics and business died peacefully on February 5th, at his home at the age of 81.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on September 1st to parents Albert and Dora Conn, Paul and his older brother Arthur were raised in the Brownsville/East Flatbush section of Brooklyn. His family later moved to Queens, New York when he was a teenager.
Conn was intellectually curious and a high achiever from an early age. As a teenager in New York City, he was one of a the very few who tested well enough to attend the elite Stuyvesant High School. After high school he attended the City University of New York, Queens College earning a bachelor’s degree. He later attended Yale University where he received a doctorate in political science. Upon graduating, Conn became a professor of political science at Michigan State University where he taught for fifteen years. Beloved by his students, Conn went above and beyond the traditional professor role and formed strong mentoring relationships with many of his students, some of which lasted a lifetime.
Conn’s political savvy and knowledge of local Michigan politics led him to advise various politicians including United States Congressman Bob Carr, who introduced Conn to the then speaker of the house of representatives for the state of Michigan, Gary Owen. Conn went on to work for house speaker Owen as a senior aide spending several years advising him on policy and communications and playing a major role in the government of the state of Michigan. After his years of public service as an aide to the speaker of the house, Conn established Paul Conn and Associates a political consulting firm. Later, he and business partner Mitch Crank, founded “The Focus Group” which performed market research services for corporate clients in a wide array of industries including automotive, financial services and labor unions.
During his career and after retirement, Conn remained passionately dedicated to a diverse array of activities including the performing arts. He served on the board of directors of the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, a performing arts center of national prominence located on the campus of Michigan State University. Paul and his wife of almost sixty years, Carol could regularly be found in the audience of Wharton Center performances as it was one of their favorite things to do and they both were passionate supporters of the arts.
When younger, Paul spent a lot of time playing tennis and his love for the game continued for the rest of his life. He enjoyed watching and following tennis on TV. His sports interests also included being a hardcore Michigan State sports fan, especially basketball and football and he almost never missed watching a game, often with his younger son Michael.
He had many intellectual pursuits and hobbies. He was a big fan of the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle which he would complete every week so quickly his family could never believe it and were convinced he somehow cheated. He loved watching the show Jeopardy during which he would answer nearly every question correctly before the host even finished reading the clue. He was the unvanquished champion of many highly competitive family Boggle matches. He was a voracious reader devouring books his whole life, up until the time he passed. He read everything but always came back to his favorite genre, the murder mystery.
He and his wife Carol traveled the world together doing many long and exotic trips. Conn would write detailed diaries of his travels for the joy and amusement of his family.
Of all his various hobbies and interests, none stood out more than his love for cooking. He taught himself to cook as a young adult and went on to become much more than just a home chef. He cooked extravagant dishes like Beef Wellington, risotto or a soufflé for dinner parties he hosted. He baked the entire selection of deserts for his son David’s Bar Mitzvah. He was a true gourmet chef constantly aweing his family and friends with the amazing meals he put together. The biggest beneficiary of his prowess in the kitchen was wife Carol for whom he later in life took pride in cooking her dinner almost daily and spoiling her on the idea of eating anything else.
Beyond his diverse career, and different interests, what he loved the most was his family, a family that is extremely close and for which he was the center of it all. He is survived by his loving wife of almost sixty years, Carol, his sons David and Michael, his daughters-in-law, Robyn and Allison and his grandchildren Miles and Devon who will all miss him dearly but will remember and love him forever.
In lieu of flowers contributions in Paul’s memory can be made to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.