Michèle Rosen, a founder of the French International School of Philadelphia in Bala Cynwyd, died July 29. The Bal Harbour, Fla., and Bryn Mawr resident was 91.
Born in Le Havre, France, Rosen (née Guillotin) studied physics in college, although she left school to marry her first husband, Dandois.
The couple traveled extensively, starting a dry cleaning business in Africa and frequently mountain climbing and adventuring outdoors.
The marriage ended in the late 1970s, and Rosen moved to Cannes and began a career as an antique dealer. She opened an antiques store on the French Riviera and, in 1981, a friend introduced her to Maurice M. Rosen, a Philadelphia industrialist.
The two married in 1983, bringing Michèle Rosen to Philadelphia.
“My sisters and I were living with our mom at the time,” stepdaughter Jordana Popovich said. “Poor Michèle. That’s where she thought we would stay.”
Instead, Popovich moved in with her father and his new wife while her sisters attended boarding school.
“She really raised me from the time that I was about 6,” Popovich said. “She was perfectly put together, all about manners. Very proper. But she could actually be so informal and casual at the same time.”
She added, “you could see her in a Chanel outfit, but she’d be drinking a Heineken. Out of a glass, of course.”
Though Rosen never technically converted to Judaism after marrying Maurice Rosen, Popovich said “it was her religion.”
Rosen participated in Popovich’s Bat Mitzvah and regularly celebrated the High Holidays with the extended Rosen family. She also contributed to the American Technion Society with her husband, who served as its president. The organization supports Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
“For someone who was not technically Jewish,” Popovich said, “she certainly lived her life doing a lot for the Jewish community.”
In addition to her work with the American Technion Society, Rosen contributed extensively to Alliance Française de Philadelphie, the region’s French culture and language group. In 1989, she became president of the chapter.
Her work in the French-Philadelphia world led her to meet Stanhope Browne, then honorary consul of France in Philadelphia. Browne asked Rosen to field donations from Philadelphia’s French community and assist in creating a school to educate students in both French and English.
In September 1991, the French International School of Philadelphia opened with 13 students. It now counts 320 students across two campuses.
For her work with the school, Rosen received the 2004 Ordre des Palmes Académiques award from the French national government. Outside of French culture, Rosen served on the boards of Hahnemann University Hospital and Paley Early Learning Center. She also supported the cardiology program at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the National Organization for Hearing Research Foundation.
Rosen is predeceased by her brother, Christian Guillotin, in addition to her husband. She is survived by stepchildren Stewart, Sharon, Cindy, Frank, Robin, Maurisa, Rachel and Jordana, 15 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. In France, she is survived by a sister-in-law, two nephews, stepdaughter Ariane Dandois, a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter.