Paul founded IES Abroad in 1950, enrolling the first class of 23 American students in Vienna. Held as a political prisoner by the Nazis at the age of 17 for his activity in the anti-Nazi underground, Paul dedicated himself to rebuilding Austria after World War II. It was his year abroad at St. Thomas University, sponsored by the Fulbright Commission in 1949, that inspired his ambitious dream: the founding of an organization that would create life-changing experiences for young Americans and help bridge the cultural divide between two continents.
It is rare for an organization founded by three 24-year-olds committed to world peace to grow and thrive to the extent that IES Abroad has. It was truly a grassroots effort by three dedicated individuals—Paul and Clarence and Alberta Giese.
When we interviewed Paul for our 60th anniversary, he said, "During vacations, I hitchhiked extensively all over America and fell in love with [this] wonderful country. I felt that somehow I must make it possible for Americans of moderate means to go to Europe for a similar experience." You can watch this interview with Paul here: IES Abroad Vienna 60th Anniversary Film.
Since Paul founded IES Abroad, the organization has educated nearly 90,000 U.S. students. While the world has changed dramatically in the last 63 years, we’re proud that our mission and vision remains the same as when Paul, Clarence, and Alberta founded IES Abroad—to offer students the best study abroad programs possible.
Thanks to the generosity of several IES Abroad Vienna alumni, the Paul & Brita Koutny Founders Scholarship was established last year (alumni can contribute to this scholarship in honor of Paul). Paul was thrilled to be honored, and the first Founders Scholarship recipient is studying in San José this term.
Our thoughts go out to Paul’s family, and we're confident his legacy will live on through all our future students.