CISV Founder, Dr. Doris Twitchell Allen


CISV History - Doris Allen founderIn over 100 years of living, Doris Allen touched the hearts and minds of thousands of people around the world. She loved her family, pursued an exciting career in psychology and had the strength and perseverance to realise her vision of a global organization dedicated to promoting inter-cultural understanding as a foundation for building a more peaceful world.

In the wake of World War II, Dr. Allen had the idea of an organization, which would foster intercultural knowledge and understanding as the cornerstone for creating peace in a world that had seen too much war. Her premise was to start with children, ‘I knew’, she once said, ‘that the ultimate source for peace, long range, lay with the children.’  With the support and participation of her husband, son and others, who shared her dream, Doris Allen developed the model for a multi-national ‘village’, where children from several countries could come together and explore their differences and similarities. Dr. Allen felt that the village experience should be fully studied and documented, so that it could contribute to global research and dialogue in the field.

The goals of intercultural education and understanding are as relevant today as they were in 1950 and CISV is determined to carry this vision forward.

The life and achievements of Dr Doris Allen

Born October 8, 1901 in Maine, USA, Doris Allen’s academic background was extensive and she later maintained her involvement in academic bodies and institutions.  After receiving degrees in Chemistry and Biology at the University of Maine (AB 1923, MA 1926), she was granted a PhD in Psychology at the University of Michigan, and completed her post-graduate study at the Psychological Institute, University of Berlin, in 1932. She was a Fellow and Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology, and served as Committee Chair / Board of Governors of the Ohio Psychological Association (1943–1948 and 1966–1969), American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (Executive Council and Vice President, 1964–1971) and International Council of Psychologists (Treasurer, 1948–1950 and President, 1969–1971). Dr Allen was also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Doris Allen and Michel BoutronHer professional career

Doris Allen’s career as a psychologist began as Director of the Field Laboratory at the Child Education Foundation in New York City (1932–1935).  From there, Dr. Allen moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she founded and was the initial Director of Psychological Services at Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Convalescent Home (1936–1938).  She was Chief Psychologist at the Longview StateHospital, Cincinnati, from 1944–1957 and from 1949–1962, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. From 1962 until her retirement, she was Professor of Psychology at the University of Cincinnati and Professor of Psychology (Psychodrama) at the University of Maine.

Founder of CISV

In addition to founding CISV, Doris Allen continued to nurture the organization and help it to expand.  She served in numerous volunteer capacities.  She also founded the International School to School Experience (ISSE) in 1971, to broaden the base of CISV by reaching more children via elementary school exchanges.

In addition to founding CISV, Doris Allen served as International President (1951–1956), Trustee (1956–1965), Research Chairman (1951–1967), and Honorary Counsellor (1965–2002), and simultaneously served as President (1956–1965), Research Chair / Co-Chair (1956–1969) and Life Trustee (1970–2002 ) of CISV USA. She also founded the International School to School Experience (ISSE) in 1971, to broaden the base of CISV by reaching more children via elementary school exchanges, and served as Chair of the International ISSE Executive Committee (1972–1982). From its inception in 1988, Doris Allen also served as Trustee/Honorary Trustee of the CISV International Peace Fund Trust.

Personality and spirit

To CISV, Dr. Allen brought not only her professional expertise, her drive and commitment, but also a love of the arts and a tremendous appreciation of drama and movement as powerful means of self-expression. Role playing and interpretive dance were frequently part of the ever-increasing repertoire of engaging and effective educational activities that she helped to develop. This artistic flare carried over into her personal life. In August of 2001, a ceremony was held to dedicate a sculpture representing CISV at the site of the first Village. One of the speakers, Dr. Susan Allen Nan (Doris’ granddaughter) described her childhood visits to museums. Her grandmother, she recalled, would help the children to understand and appreciate the sculptures by joining them in physically ‘re-enacting’ the pose and motion of the sculpture. Dr. Allen’s spirit and imagination were just part of what family, friends and so many others admired in her.


Doris Allen with parachute

Dr. Allen’s enormous contribution to international understanding and research also received formal recognition from governments and institutions.  She received four honorary doctorates for her international peace work in CISV and as a child psychologist. Her success in international exchange was recognised in 1956 when she was appointed a Member of the White House Conference of 100, which organized an international people-to-people programme. In 1953, she received the Gold Medal from the City of Stockholm  ‘for outstanding work in international relations’, the Les Palmes Academiques from the French Government in 1961 ‘for a distinguished contribution to scientific and social thought’ through CISV. Her work in international relations through CISV was recognised by the International Council of Psychologists (1962) and by the Government of Guatemala, which awarded her the Orden del Quetzal in 1976. In 1999 Doris Allen was one of five USA citizens recognised by the Coca-Cola Company in its People At Their Best Awards for selfless community contribution ‘fostering understanding and friendship among children of different countries.’ She was nominated by a former CISV Village delegate, who said: “Dr Allen is an extraordinary woman who deserves your award for making peace in children’s hearts.”

Doris Allen was also nominated for the following awards and honours: a Nobel Peace Prize (1979, The Year Of the Child); the Freedom Medal (1999), an honour awarded by the President of the United States of America; the Hague Appeal for Peace Prize (2001); and the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education (2001).

Doris lived to the age of 100 and saw CISV celebrate its 50th Anniversary before she died on March 7, 2002 in Virginia, USA. With her accomplishments, intellectual and physical energy, leadership, persuasive personality and zest for life, she was a magnetic character who inspired in those who knew her and felt the intensity of her will.