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Jon Lauglo ’66

March 17, 2019, in Oslo, Norway, of a heart attack following a gall bladder operation.

The consummate professor, Jon had a deep sense of social justice and practical application. He was committed to extending democracy and material progress based on reliable theory developed through rigorous research and practical application. Throughout his academic career, he gave intellectual service to the development interests of some of the least advantaged.

Jon was born on a farm in Leinstrand, Norway, a place to which he maintained a lifelong attachment. In high school, he was chosen for the American Field Service (AFS) exchange program and asked to be placed in a Southern state so he could study race relations firsthand. Instead, AFS sent him to Minnetonka, a posh suburb of Minneapolis, where he acquired an affinity for Republicans.

“My year at Minnetonka was important for my life,” Jon said. “It made me interested in international issues in education—a theme which I pursued professionally in both my higher education and in my main work bases.”

He returned to Norway to complete secondary school. After working as an untrained primary teacher in the Arctic north of Norway, he served in the Norwegian army, where he studied Russian. Then in 1964, he returned to the U.S. on a scholarship to Reed, where he majored in sociology.

His friend, Jane Burbank ’67, remembered that at the time “Reed was an intellectual’s school—a radical, underground politics kind of place for people who love the outdoors, where nonconformity is not just appreciated but required," and Jon fit right in.

“He was smart, loved the outdoors and beauty of the place, and he was a contrarian,” Jane said. “At Reed, his contrariness took the form of being a political conservative on a campus that was 99.9% left-wing, anarchist, revolutionary, etc. He seemed to enjoy this, and many of us enjoyed his company.”

After two years, Jon left Reed and married Marilyn Tsuchiya, whom he met the summer before while working at the Pillsbury Company in Minneapolis. The couple moved to Chicago, where Jon got a PhD in comparative education from the University of Chicago. They subsequently had three children and lived in Norway, London, and Washington, D.C.

In developing countries, the ’80s and ’90s were a heady time for education. Participants discussed the nature and purpose of education, and debates raged about the best ways to administer and manage education, and what kinds of curriculum would be most relevant.

Jon’s academic work was central to all of this. At the time he was lecturing on education in developing countries in the Department of International and Comparative Education at the Institute of Education at University College London. With colleague Martin McLean, he organized a conference on international perspectives on the centralization/decentralization of education, resulting in a book, The Control of Education (1985), coedited with McLean. He researched vocational education, searching for ways to make it more relevant and effective.

He was a professor of sociology of education at the University of Oslo and wrote a book, Vocationalized Secondary Education Revisited, in 2005. Prior to that he worked as a senior education specialist, Africa region, for the World Bank in Washington, D.C.; was director of research for the Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities; and taught at the Institute of Education, University College London. He consulted usually for aid agencies concerned with developing education in the Third World.

Jon’s wife, Marilyn, recalled that he loved to debate and that his positions were often based on some obscure bit of history he had picked up through his very wide range of reading and on his ability for lateral thinking.

“When I suggested that perhaps he shouldn’t have expressed a view, he increasingly came back to the notion of tolerance—the importance of accepting people while disagreeing with their opinions,” she said. “He strongly believed that we must tolerate hearing different views and believed that, in the end, people would see reason and would do the right thing.”

Jon’s death was unexpected. He had been hospitalized for the removal of a gallstone, and pancreatitis was revealed during the operation. While in the ICU, he suffered a heart attack and died. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn; his children, Jon Magnus, Rachel, and Sarah; and his siblings, Anne Økvik, Anders Lauglo, and Harald Lauglo.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2019

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