Edward Graham

Professor Edward Dewey Graham


Professor Edward Dewey Graham of Okemos, Michigan, died on April 28 at the age of 86.  He was born in Montpelier, Vermont November 29, 1928, the only son of Edward Dewey Graham, Sr. and Helen Ann (Murphy) Graham.  Raised in Portland, Maine, he was educated in its public schools, graduating from Deering High School, where he played football, edited the school newspaper, and was a state champion debater. One week after graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Army, in which he trained as an armored infantryman but, in fact, became editor of a weekly camp newspaper. The times and his postings made it impossible for him ever to win the one medal he coveted: the combat infantry badge. After separation from the service he worked as a reported for The Portland Press Herald and its affiliated radio station, WGAN. In the fall of 1948, entered Harvard College, from which he graduated with honors in history in the class of 1952.  He enrolled in Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Letters, from which he received his AM and PhD. degrees in history, concentrating on the 18th and 19th century experiences of American merchants, missionaries, and diplomats in China.  As a graduate student he had his first experience of teaching, the calling that was to be at the heart of his life's work.

From Cambridge, Mr. Graham moved to Washington, D.C. where he was the one-man history department at Mt. Vernon Junior College (now Mt. Vernon College).  After three years in Washington, he received an appointment in the Humanities Department of Michigan State University's University College. From 1962 until the dissolution of that college and department, he taught undergraduate courses in Western civilization and, with a Chinese-American colleague, developed a course  that proved to be enduringly popular entitled  The Cultural Traditions of China. With Michigan State's abandonment of general education, Mr. Graham joined the History Department, which remained his academic home until retirement. There he taught courses in Chinese history, including an experimental television course built around a series of documentary films.

Coincident with his appointment to the History Department, Mr. Graham became Acting Director of MSU's Asian Studies Center, a one year assignment, one achievement of which was winning three grants from the Chang-Ching Kuo Foundation in its first year as a grant awarding entity.  At the end of this assignment, Mr. Graham was appointed Assistant Dean for International Studies and Programs, a position he held until his retirement in 1993.

Mr. Graham married twice.  In 1954 he married Marion Sydney Ives of Scranton, Pennsylvania (who survives him), they had two sons, Edward Ian (Becky) Graham of Spokane, Washington, and Gordon Bruce (Tracy) Graham of Derry, New Hampshire all of whom survive him. In 1960 he married the love of his life, Leah Dorothy Louis of Ashtabula, Ohio who predeceased him on October 12, 2012.  They had two children, Ann (Rob) Nichols and Peter Timothy (Mary) Graham, both of East Lansing (all of whom survive him).  He also leaves seven grandchildren: Shannan (Dan) McKenna, Alyssa Graham  and Owen Graham, of Derry New Hampshire; Sam Nichols, Sarah, Andrew, and John Graham, of East Lansing, and one great grand-daughter, Bryn Olivia McKenna, of Derry, New Hampshire.

Growing up on the Maine coast, Mr. Graham was shaped by the sea and was always drawn back to it.  Taught by his father to sail at an early age (he often said he learned sailing long before driving and would always rather do the former) owned a small boat whenever possible, and saw as much of the world as he could - the Great Lakes, the rivers of Europe and China, and the Atlantic itself-- from afloat.  Taken as a boy, again by his father, aboard the USS Constitution, he came to love naval history, and throughout his life took great pleasure in reading both scholarly works and novels of naval life, building ship models and admiring marine art.   His intellectual interests went well beyond the sea, however: he was the sort of reader who rarely met a book he didn't like, so long as it told a good yarn or asked a question that needed answering.  He loved poetry of all ages and cultures, from China's classic Book of Songs to the great modern poets, among whom Yeats was a particular favorite.  From early times as a reader he memorized many of the verses he loved.

It may be that this range of interests, amounting really to a rainbow of intellectual passions, made him enjoy teaching, for he was always anxious to share one of his old loves, or his newest discovery, with anyone who would listen. Although he enjoyed writing and had a decent number of publications to his credit, he often said, jokingly, that he was only acting the part of a scholar/teacher.  He was really, he explained, a ham performer who dressed the part, entered the classroom and acted as if he were a professor who knew what he was talking about.

As he left the University he asked that any money contributed for a retirement gift be given to the MSU Children's Garden, such donations being recognized by inscribed paving bricks.  He asked that one such bear the lines from Chaucer's description of the Clerk of Oxenford:

And gladly would he learn,

And gladly teach.

That, Mr. Graham thought, summed up his own career splendidly.

A memorial service for Mr. Graham will be held on Wednesday, May 21 at 11:00AM at The Peoples Church in East Lansing. In lieu of flowers, it was his wish that donations be made to The Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Box 8, 232 Water Street, Apalachicola, Florida 32320.

Published in Lansing State Journal on May 15, 2014