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Obituary: Harry Senn

Pitzer professor, two-time Fulbright fellow, author, grandfather

Harry Anthony Senn, Pitzer College Professor Emeritus of French, died July 4, 2017 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 78.

He was born May 22, 1939 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Frances and Alexander Senn, the youngest of five. Mr. Senn graduated from Southwest High School in Minneapolis. He had not studied a language in high school but, after taking a class in French in college, he knew the study of French language and literature was what he wanted to do. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota.

A Fulbright teaching grant sent him to Melun, France to perfect his French. It was there that he married Barbara Stewart in a civil ceremony at city hall. A renewal of the grant for a second year saw the newlyweds move to Grenoble, in the French Alps.

After two years in France, the young couple moved to Berkeley, California in 1965, where Mr. Senn studied for his doctorate.

 In 1970, with their young daughter Kathryn Alexandra, the family moved to Claremont after Mr. Senn accepted a position with Pitzer College. There his interest in folklore developed, leading to two Fulbright Research Fellowships and two International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) grants to study folklore in Romania.

He and his family (with the new addition of a son, Edward) lived on and off in Romania during the 1970s and ‘80s. It was there while listening to the stories of village elders that Mr. Senn began an unintended side project delving into the long history of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural phenomena associated with Romania. Through this association, Mr. Senn eventually became a reluctant “expert” on such “spooky” subjects and, in those years, was often interviewed by the media around Halloween. His book, Were-Wolf and Vampire in Romania was published by a division of Columbia University Press in 1982. Mr. Senn saw his minor celebrity turn as an amusing side note to his more serious fields of study, his wife Barbara said.

His long interest in belief systems and psychology led Mr. Senn to become a licensed marriage, family and child psychotherapist, specializing in anger management. His book, Constructive Anger: Retooling Our Anger Hammer, was published in 2005 under his middle name Anthony. He continued with his practice until a couple of months before his death.

He is survived by Barbara Senn, his wife of 53 years, his son Ted, daughter Alex, son-in-law Robert and granddaughters Lucy and May; brother Keith and sister Darlyne, both of Minneapolis, and numerous nieces and nephews.

An informal day of remembrance will take place Saturday, July 22 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Senn home, at 1669 Clemson Ave., Claremont.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to The Nature Conservancy at nature.org.

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