December 17, 1922 - January 20, 2017
Dr. Agaton Palen Pal, 94, of Beaumont, passed on January 20, 2017, in Houston, Texas.
Visitation will be from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at the Darst Funeral Home at 796 Russell Palmer Road, Kingwood, Texas 77339. Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 29, 2017, at the First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood at 5520 Kingwood Dr., Humble, Texas 77345.
Dr. Pal was born in Matalom, Leyte, Philippines, on December 17, 1922, to Felipe and Felipa Palen Pal. He married Calenica Pusa Gono on June 19, 1943, in Matalom, Leyte. Their union lasted 53 years until Mrs. Pal’s passing in 1996.
Dr. Pal attained formal schooling in the Philippines and the United States. He completed the elementary grades at Matalom Elementary School, where he was Class Valedictorian. His high school enrollment at Maasin Institute was disrupted when World War II reached the Philippines.
He was in his third year of high school, when World War II encroached on his native island of Leyte in the Philippines. Schools and local governments were closed. Entrusted with responsibilities beyond his years, he mobilized local and family resources and assisted Filipino guerrilla forces and survived the Japanese occupation on the island of Leyte until the liberation of the Philippines by allied forces in 1944. He resumed his high school thereafter, graduating as Class Valedictorian. (See also: Narciso Palen Pal. Memories of My Brother. www.dumaguetemetropost.com.)
He earned a B.A. major in History, summa cum laude, and an M.A. in Education, in 1950 and 1952, respectfully, at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Philippines. He attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, on a Rockefeller Scholarship in 1954; completed his coursework and dissertation in two (2) years and earned a Ph.D. in Rural Sociology in 1956.
Dr. Pal’s academic career began at Silliman where he taught history and social studies at Silliman High School, served as faculty adviser to the JuniorSillimanian school paper, the debating team, and as a coach. It was at Silliman that Dr. Pal began his life-long collaborative professional friendship with Dr. Robert A. Polson, Sociology Professor from Cornell University who initially came to the Philippines as Advisor to the Philippine Community Development Program (PACD). The outcomes of their collaborative work have been an enhanced understanding of Philippine sociology and social life, in addition to pioneering longitudinal socio-economic research and population studies. (See also: Pal, Agaton P. WorldCat.Identities.)
At Silliman, Dr. Pal served as the Director of the Community Development Research Program, 1957-1964; Chair of the Department of Social Sciences,1964-1967; Project Director for the Silliman University Research-Action Project in Family Planning,1966-1968; Acting Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, 1968-1969; and Professor of Sociology, 1963-1969.
At Cornell, Dr. Pal served as Visiting Professor of Rural Sociology and Asian Studies, 1969 – 1970. He and Mrs. Pal, with their youngest child, Prime, were set to return to the Philippines when Martial Law was declared. Revisiting academic offers to work in the U.S., which he had not entertained since his family had plans to return to the Philippines, he decided to accept the position of Professor of Sociology with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR).
He was Professor of Sociology at UALR for 17 years, where he served as Chair of the Department for ten (10) of those years. His progressive leadership significantly expanded Departmental course offerings to include anthropology and gerontology in addition to sociology. Required practicum for students helped maximize their functional capacities and employment opportunities. Follow-up surveys later showed that the Department’s innovative curriculum in gerontology was a major factor in helping expand effective geriatric services across Arkansas.
Dr. Pal took an early retirement from academic life in 1987 to pursue his interest in the study of law that he had nurtured as a young man in the Philippines. He never practiced as a paid attorney after his law studies at UALR, but his formal exposure to the field and his ever present desire to read and learn, made him one others, Filipinos in particular, went to for advice.
Dr. Pal was an involved participant of the communities he lived in, be this in academia or outside of it. While on the faculty at Silliman, he served, among others, on the Board of the University Medical Center, at one time assuming the position of Chair (1964-1968). In Arkansas, he and Mrs. Pal were founding members, and instrumental in reviving and democratizing the Philippine-American Association of Arkansas starting in the mid-1970s until they left Little Rock to move to Beaumont, Texas in 1993. Affirming their positive community activism, the Board of Directors of the City of Little Rock, Arkansas, “authorized and commissioned” them as “ambassador of goodwill and fellowship” with the title of “Honorary Citizen” to “represent the City of Little Rock in travels to other cities, states and nations.”
Dr. Pal divided his time in retirement between his homes in Beaumont, Dumaguete, and Matalom, Leyte. In Dumaguete, he started a cattle-fattening project in Batinguel, got involved in the senior citizens’ group, served on the S.U. Board of Trustees, and was active in the Dumaguete chapter of the Silliman Alumni Association whose nomination earned for him in 2000, the Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Social Science Education. He was in the midst of preparations to donate land on which to establish a vocational technical school in Dumaguete to enhance capacities for gainful employment of young adults, ultimately benefitting families.
Dr. Pal is preceded in death by his wife, Calenica, and his siblings Bernardina, Ruperto, Minay, Felix, Graciano, and Sixta. He is survived by his children (Aurora and Carl; Calenica Fe; Primepares and Jackie) and their families; youngest brother Narciso and his family; sister-in-law Josefina and her family; and siblings Felix’s and Sixta’s families.
The family of Dr. Agaton Pal thoughtfully requests that, in lieu of flowers, in-memoriam donations be made to the United Board for the Dr. Agaton and Mrs. Calenica Pal Memorial Fund at Silliman University. Donations can be made online at
or through checks, payable to “United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia” (please indicate this gift is made in memory of Dr. Pal in the memo line) can be mailed to either of two offices:
The United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1221
New York, NY 10115
United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia
1/F, Chung Chi College Administration Building
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong
Visitation: A visitation was held on 2017-01-29 at Darst Funeral Home.
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