Franz Michael, UW Ex-Professor With First-Hand Expertise On Asia
Professor Franz Michael, distinguished scholar of Chinese history and former University of Washington professor, died last month after a lifetime of teaching and research in Europe, Asia and the United States. He was 85.
Professor Michael was well-known for his work in Asian studies, which included interviewing Tibet's Dalai Lama and Chiang Kai-shek, the late leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party.
Family members recall Professor Michael's love of the state's mountains, where he enjoyed skiing and hiking. At age 70, he climbed Mount Rainier.
Professor Michael was born in Freiburg-Breisgau, Germany, and studied history and law at the universities of Freiburg, Hamburg and Berlin.
In 1934, Germany sent Professor Michael to China as a diplomatic attache. But by the time he arrived, Hitler had decreed no Jews could hold government jobs. Professor Michael was barred from serving in the diplomatic corps because his father's side of the family was Jewish.
Instead, Professor Michael joined the faculty of National Chekiang University in Hangchow. When the Japanese invaded China a few years later, Professor Michael was among the faculty and students who retreated inland, traveling through regions ruled by bandits while holding classes whenever possible, said his daughter Ingrid Vera Osterhaug of Edmonds.
In return for food and lodging, faculty and students (led by the university's engineering professors) helped villagers build
badly needed dikes and small bridges.
Professor Michael emigrated to the United States in 1939 and joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University.
In 1942, he set up a U.S. Army Asian-language training program at the University of Washington. He taught Chinese history and government courses at UW for 22 years and served as chairman of the Modern Chinese history program.
In 1964, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he joined the faculty at George Washington University and directed the Institute for Sino-Soviet Studies and National Defense Education Center.
After retiring, Professor Michael served as an academic guide for the Smithsonian Institute on trips to Tibet and China, where he sometimes bumped into former students while walking on the Great Wall.
In many of his books, Professor Michael counters the common view of China as a "feudal" society by analyzing the scholar-gentry elite and the country's Confucian-Buddhist background.
His later work focuses on modern China, speaking strongly against communism, Marxism, Leninism and the fate of the country under Mao.
In addition to his daughter, Professor Michael is survived by his wife, Dolores Michael of Carmel, Calif.; his former wife, Anita Michael of Seattle; a son, Peter Michael of Seattle; a brother, Professor W.F. Michael of Austin, Texas; five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The family will hold a private memorial service for relatives and friends later this month. Memorials can be made to a favorite charity.
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