May 30, 2012 / 5:00 PM / 7 years ago

French academic found in NY hotel died of natural causes

(Reuters) - Prominent French academic Richard Descoings, whose naked body was found in his New York City hotel room in early April, died of natural causes related to hypertension, the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said on Wednesday.

Descoings had suffered from high blood pressure and heart disease, said Ellen Borakove, a spokesman for the medical examiner.

His body was discovered on April 3 at the Michelangelo Hotel in a room initially described by police sources as “in disarray.” It was later determined that emergency personnel had thrown the room into disorder during attempts to revive Descoings.

Colleagues alerted the hotel that Descoings had failed to show up as scheduled at a conference at Columbia University. But when hotel employees checked outside Descoings’ room at 10:30 a.m. that day, they believed they heard him snoring and left.

His body was not discovered by hotel personnel until about two hours later.

Descoings, 53, was serving as director of the Paris Institute of Political Studies and chief administrator of the French National Foundation of Political Science. The two institutions are among the most prestigious public policy research and teaching institutions in Europe.

Descoings was a graduate of France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration and had served as a technical adviser on education to former budget minister Michel Charasse and former education minister Jack Lang.

Descoings was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, in 2005. He is best-known for reforming Sciences Po, one of the country’s most distinguished academic institutions, and for improving access for students from underprivileged areas, despite fierce opposition.

More recently, he was commissioned by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to look into ways of improving the country’s high schools. His report formed the basis for 2010 reforms designed to bring education into the 21st century and promote equal opportunities.

Jean-Claude Casanova, president of the National Foundation of Political Sciences, and Michel Pebereau, president of the Executive Board of Sciences Po, called Descoings’ death an “irreparable loss.”

Reporting by Chris Francescani; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bill Trott

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