Paul Emil Bergevin was an early adult education leader with a distinguished career in adult education as an administrator, researcher, methodologist, educator and intellectual leader. His career began as Director of Adult and Vocational Education in the Anderson, Indiana public school system (1936-1947) where he gained a national reputation for his work in apprenticeship education and his book, Industrial Apprenticeship. His path to becoming a university professor had challenges. He dropped out of high school to help support his widowed mother. Purdue University admitted him under special arrangement where he completed a bachelor and master's degree in industrial engineering and economics. After one year of teaching he became the Director of the Adult and Vocational Education at Anderson, Indiana, where his beliefs about adult education were formed.
Bergevin, as Director of the Bureau of Studies in Adult Education (earlier named Bureau of Community Services) at Indiana University in 1947 developed and administered a comprehensive, statewide university adult education program in service, research, and graduate education. He directed studies in the institutional nature of adult education, publishing with John McKinley, Design for Adult Education in the Church.
He was co-developer of the Participation Training Institute, which trained hundreds of clergy, nurses, literacy workers, military and government educators, and lay members of community and voluntary organizations. Participation Training embodied his goal to enable adults to work together and to be responsible for self and others. After (World War II), Bergevin developed one of the early graduate programs in adult education and built it into a major program. Several courses were based on the results of the field research. He emphasized that adult programs should be both broad and offer specific training in communication, and in social, philosophical, and historical concepts affecting human relations.
His publications include A Philosophy for Adult Education, and he co-authored Participation Training for Adult Education, Adult Education Procedures, Group Processes for Adult Education, and A Manual for Discussion Leaders and Participants.
He was one of the first professors to develop and publish the first book of adult education as a university field of study. He also co-authored a chapter of Adult Education: Outlines of an Emerging Field of University Study.
He was a member of the NUCEA Community Organization committee. He was a founding member of the Adult Education Association of the U.S.A. and the Commission of Professors of Adult Education. He was a founder of the Indiana Adult Education Association. The life and works of Paul Emil Bergevin will continue to be an important influence in adult education well into the 21st century.