Owen Paris, a.k.a., Mr. Paris, Coach, Dean, O.P., is a treasured faculty emeritus who served at Ransom Everglades from 1976 until his retirement in 2008. He was inducted into the RE Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017, and he faithfully returns to campus each year for events, such as the annual RE Athletic Hall of Fame induction, the Holiday Party and Alumni Weekend.
Ransom Everglades: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up?
Owen Paris: I grew up in Queens, New York. My father, Frank Paris, was a New York City police patrolman for 27 years until he had a heart attack at age 52. When he passed that seemed like a long life, but now I see that it was way before his time. My dad was my coach, and I developed as an athlete and swimmer because of him. He set my athletic career in motion. He taught me technique and how to dissect races – it all came from him.
My mother was a secretary at the Flushing YMCA, and that’s where I started swimming. After my dad died, she became an executive secretary for a VP at the Pfizer Company. She worked hard – she had three kids to raise – had a warm personality and was loved by everyone. She got married a second time to a man named Owen. He was O.J. and I was O.P. Confusing at times. What are the odds of two Owens in the same family? My mom loved the name Owen. It went along with Keith, my older brother, and Helene, my younger sister (whom we nicknamed Pixie).
RE: We all loved your accent, and I know you have a story about that.
OP: You know Henry Winkler who played Fonzie on the TV show, Happy Days? He was one year ahead of me at my high school.
RE: What was school like for you?
OP: I went to the McBurney School in Manhattan where I was an All-American-ranked swimmer and held the national breaststroke record in the independent school division for two years. Then I attended East Carolina on a swimming scholarship with a major in PE. I also worked as a lifeguard there and one Saturday in 1965, who walks in but Terry, from Roanoke, Virginia. Terry was a PE major also. I remember checking out her stroke and making a bet with another lifeguard that she would do a flip-turn. Well, she flipped, and I won that bet! Later that semester I ran into her, and the rest is history. We got married in 1969. Terry often says she married me because she couldn’t stand her maiden name, Butcher. Paris was always cooler.
RE: How did you end up in Florida?
OP: We always wanted to go to Florida. I remember my interview with Dan Bowden – he did most of the talking. Terry and I both got jobs at RE, and we were the first couple to have jobs at the upper school at the same time. We lived in Fort Lauderdale and commuted to RE every morning in a yellow VW bus.
RE: What was it like to move here with a young child?
OP: Our son, Jason, was this blonde-haired campus baby … so many people remember when the three of us were always around. Jason went to RE from seventh grade on and graduated in 1993. He swam for RE, received the most improved student award as a sophomore, was All-Dade County 9-12, and earned the sportsmanship award (presented by me). He graduated with a degree in communications from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Jason passed away in September 2019. Terry and I want to especially thank the RE community’s outpouring of love and support.
RE: He sounds like he was quite an amazing person. Thank you for remembering Jason with us. You have had quite a few roles at Ransom Everglades, haven’t you?
OP: I was the department chair of PE from 1976 to 1998 and Assistant Dean of Students from 1999 until I retired in 2008. I coached boys’ and girls’ varsity swimming, girls’ cross country and boys’ track and field. And in 2017 I was inducted into the RE Athletic Hall of Fame.
I didn’t ever want to be the stereotypical male PE teacher, you know? As dean, I knew every student by name. I taught each incoming eighth-grade class, so it was easy. Every morning I would sit in the breezeway and greet the students who all had different moods – some happy, some not so happy. I tried to entertain them and soften things and make it fun with a bit of humor. Don’t forget, I went to high school with the Fonz. Maybe his humor rubbed off.
It was always important to me to find different ways to get to know the kids better. There was the teaching part, the coaching part, then also just the overall person part.
RE: You know we have to ask about your nicknames!
OP: I always gave nicknames to people, and I never knew what they would be. They just came to me with no rhyme or reason. So often alums would come back to campus, and I couldn’t remember their names, but I could remember their nicknames. I want it to say on my tombstone, “The guy with a thousand-and-one nicknames!”
RE: And could you please tell us about Mrs. Sutton and Mama P?
OP: Ah, Mrs. Sutton and Mama P. The two nicknames for my wife, Terry. The Mrs. Sutton personality likes the finer things in life. She mingles well with the rich and famous. She can be very uppity and judgmental at times. The Mama P personality is more nurturing and loving. She understands and relates well to street school kids.
RE: Well, Mr. Paris, it sure has been a pleasure talking to you.
OP: Same here. It’s so great to stay connected to alumni. That’s why I love to come back to alumni events. I get to see people and how they turned out.