OWREN, Michael J. Michael J. Owren Michael J. Owren, a teacher and scientist who analyzed the biological foundations of animal and human communication, died January 15 at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. Michael was born July 19, 1955 in Oslo, Norway, the third child of Leif and Ingrid Owren. He was raised in College, Alaska; Hanover, New Hampshire; and Bergen, Norway. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Reed College and his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Indiana University. Michael taught psychology and neuroscience for over 25 years, first while doing post-doctoral work at the University of California, Davis, and later at the University of Colorado at Denver; the University of Otago (New Zealand); Reed College; Cornell University; and Georgia State University. At the time of his death, he was an Adjunct Professor at Emory University. Michael's research analyzed vocal phenomena in both animals and humans. He pioneered digital spectral analysis techniques, first developed in speech science for use in studies of animal communication. His work challenged a predominant view by showing that animal vocalizations "work" by influencing attentional, arousal, emotional, and motivational states in the listener, rather than by imparting representational messages. Michael's empirical studies are widely recognized for their rigor and attention to detail. Drew Rendall, Chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Lethbridge (Canada) and longtime colleague, characterized Michael's work as "exceptional in its clarity of thought, expression and vision." Michael loved teaching, and was a mentor to many undergraduate and graduate students. Outside the classroom, he was a life-long runner. For a while, he also sang professionally, performing during his time in Denver with an a cappella group known as Cool Shooz. To his friends and family, Michael was known for his intelligence, dry wit, and knowledge of everything. From beer to basketball to politics and world geography, Michael was the guy everyone wanted on their Trivial Pursuit team. Michael is survived by his three siblings, Turid Owren of Portland, Oregon; Henry Owren, also of Portland; and Thomas Owren, of Bergen, Norway; as well as thirteen nieces and nephews who loved spending time with their Uncle Michael. They, along with his many students, colleagues, and friends, will miss him greatly. Memorial services will be held for Michael in Portland, Oregon at the Reed College Psychology Building, Room 105 (Psychology Auditorium) on March 22, 2014, from 4 to 6 pm. The family requests that remembrances for Michael be directed to Reed College or the Acoustical Society of America.
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Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Mar. 9, 2014