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Al Franken, Pauline Boss, and Hillary Clinton

Political humorist Al Franken greets Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the New York City event honoring College of Human Ecology professor Pauline Boss (center).

Pauline Boss honored for work with September 11 families

Published on July 27, 2004; Updated on August 4, 2005

On Friday night, July 23, two New York City labor unions honored University of Minnesota professor Pauline Boss for her work following the September 11 attacks. At the same event, they also singled out U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton for her efforts during the same time.

On September 12, 2001, Service Employees International Local 32BJ and HERE Local 100 called Boss and asked her to come to New York and help family members and coworkers of the victims cope with their grief. The service workers' unions had more than 2,000 members employed at the World Trade Center and in surrounding areas, as cleaners, elevator operators, security guards, food service workers, porters, window cleaners, and tour guides. At the time of the attack, about 350 union members were in the buildings.

Boss is the author of Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief. Families of September 11 victims who have no body to bury are living with a particularly difficult kind of loss, and Boss' work centers on how families cope and learn to live with unresolved grief. Of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks, only 289 intact bodies were recovered. "The stress of not knowing [exactly what happened] is never-ending," Boss says.

Boss and other University of Minnesota faculty and graduate students made several trips to New York City after September 11. They worked with the families and helped train other therapists to work with the families of the victims. "Our job was to teach families to live with never knowing--to live with ambiguous loss," says Boss.

The event in New York was cosponsored by the U's College of Human Ecology (CHE) where Boss has been a long-time faculty member. It raised more than $100,000 toward the creation of the Endowed Chair in Family Stress and Resilience. The position recognizes Boss' groundbreaking research and expertise in ambiguous loss, as well as her post-September 11 outreach work in New York. (Gifts and commitments for the new endowed position now total about $200,000; the goal is $2 million.) Boss, who will retire in 2005, says the chair's creation will help carry on the work she began.

To learn more about the Endowed Chair in Family Stress and Resilience, contact Pamela Lowe at 612-624-5092 or at

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