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Humans of Oxford: Michel Pactat — And that’s why


By Emily Simanskis, For The Miami Student

Michel Pactat insists he's lived a normal life.

And that's why he says it's a long story when he's asked about why he came from Northern France to teach French in Oxford, Ohio.

He saved money to travel the world with his friends out of fear that everything would be blown up in the Cold War. They wanted to drive from Europe to China but couldn't, so instead, they started in Texas. They drove to South and Central America, then back to Michigan. Again to South America. Up to Oregon, heading for Alaska.

And that's why, in his classes, he speaks mostly French to his students. It's his way of proving that there are people around the world communicating in different languages, that speaking French is possible.

He attended art schools in France to prepare for competitive French architecture school.

And that's why he regularly begins his 101 class by asking students to fill in the empty speech bubbles of detailed, Expo Marker-created, cartoon men and women with French.

He wanted to be an architect. He didn't intend to end up in the Midwest teaching French to college students.

And that's why, if you venture into his office, you can't help but notice how he specifically fashioned his desk to allow for a tree to grow through it. How his desk includes rows of built-in bookshelves to hold his hundreds of novels - all of which he's read. How he made the desk fit for a medicine ball instead of a desk chair. How he's cut the school's furniture in half.

But all those years ago, his then-wife got pregnant and found a job in Bowling Green, Ohio and he needed a job, too.

And that's why he's taught French at Miami University for 25 years.