The University Record, June 19, 2000

Obituaries

Heleen W.A.M. Sancisi-Weerdenburg

Heleen W.A.M. Sancisi-Weerdenburg died at the age of 56 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on May 26, after a courageous battle against cancer. Sancisi-Weerdenburg held the Netherlands Visiting Professorship at the University in 1989–90 in the Departments of History and Near Eastern Studies. Building upon the extensive bonds she forged in her year here, she was subsequently a frequent and much sought-after speaker at the University, visiting on a less formal basis to participate in graduate seminars and colloquia. She also was widely known and coveted as a discussant across all of the United States and Canada as well as throughout the world in the same wonderful way—functioning as a catalytic agent of truly interesting historical debate. History for her was a kaleidoscopic phenomenon rather than a discipline strictly speaking. It was a phenomenon that knew no petty boundaries of institutional territorialism.

Sancisi-Weerdenburg received her doctor of letters in history and archaeology from the Riijksuniversiteit, Leiden, in 1980. Having taught first at the University of Groningen 1975–89, she achieved the Professorship in Ancient History at Utrecht in 1990. She was a pioneering historian of the ancient Greeks and Persians. Her work stressed the importance of returning to the classical authors (including the Greek “father of history,” Herodotus, and the Athenian playwright Aeschylus) with fresh critical awareness of the importance of reading them against the backdrop of subtexts and agendas embedded in their complex perceptions of the ancient Persians and their 200-year long empire founded by Cyrus the Great.

In the historiography of the classical tradition and its modern elaborations, the ancient Achaemenid Persians who fought with the Greeks in the so-called Persian Wars became the quintessential Other. Layers of assumptions of Western cultural primacy made it possible to take at face value the words of the Greeks, even when important cues within those sources, combined with primary evidence from the Persian vantage point, cried out for critical reappraisal. Sancisi-Weerdenburg systematically tackled an array of astutely targeted issues in Western traditions on the Achaemenid Persian empire—including the notion of Decadence as a defining feature of ancient Persian kingship and the notion of the role of harem intrigue as the defining social maneuverability of women in the empire. The themes that became touchstones of the new historical agenda on the Persian empire spear-headed by Sancisi-Weerdenburg invariably resonated with concerns that invited engagement and energetic debate by a stimulating range of scholars.

She was the intellectual and practical mastermind of a movement that sustained and promoted studies in ancient Persian archaeology and social history (and their interface with the classical tradition) during the difficult years of the 1980s and early 1990s—when international politics cast a pall on work by non-Iranians in Iran and even on their work about Iran. In 1981, Sancisi-Weerdenburg initiated a series of 10 international Achaemenid History Workshops. The first was held in Groningen; the last (in 1990) at the U-M, where Sancisi-Weerdenburg was holding the distinguished Netherlands Visiting Professorship sponsored by the University and the Royal Dutch Academy. This last workshop was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities under the auspices of a grant held by a colleague in the Department of the History of Art and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. In this final workshop, U.S. colleagues joined with scholars drawn from Japan, the then-Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the European continent, as well as others from across North America.

The Achaemenid History Workshops were characterized by serious consideration of specific questions on the nature of ancient Persian history and its complexities broadly speaking, with an explicit emphasis on method, theory and ways of turning the prism of evidence in the hope of gleaning new flashes of light. They stressed gritty working dialogue rather than performance; they empowered younger scholars to join the discourse alongside eminences; they stressed a multidisciplinary approach long before this was a cliché in academe; and they emphasized product in the form of published papers emerging from the workshops. The Achaemenid history series inaugurated by Sancisi-Weerdenburg remains a major vehicle for publication of scholarship on Persian empire studies.

Sancisi-Weerdenburg was a scholar of extraordinary intellectual gifts and personal charisma. Colleagues from coast to coast in the United States mourn the loss of a born teacher and leader, an exuberant friend. We at Michigan are fortunate to have had a special place in her life as a result of the Netherlands Visiting Professorship.

She is survived by two children—Gabriella of Amsterdam and Igor of Utrecht—who both attended Pioneer High School during their 1989–90 Ann Arbor sojourn. Condolences may be sent to them at Van Alphenstraat 10, 3581 JB Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Submitted by Margaret Cool Root, Center for European Studies

Garnet Garrison

Garnet Garrison, professor emeritus of speech communication and theatre, died June 10 in Foster City, Calif. He was 88.

Garrison, who held a B.A. from Wayne State University and M.A. from the U-M, joined the U-M in 1947 as an associate professor and was named professor in 1950. That year he also was named director of television for the University and later was named director of broadcasting. He returned to teaching in 1972 and retired in 1979.

Garrison was responsible for the first televised academic courses, on WWJ-TV, and for the national distribution of U-M television courses. Under his leadership, U-M television productions were seen on more than 50 stations nationwide, and the television programs, as well as programs on WUOM and WVGR radio, received numerous awards.

Prior to joining the U-M, Garrison was a director and program administrator for NBC in New York, where he directed many news programs, including D-Day coverage, the 1944 elections and the New York reception of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. In addition to directing more than 300 radio and documentary dramas, Garrison was a lecturer in broadcasting courses at Columbia University.

Garrison began his career as a broadcaster while an undergraduate student at Wayne State University, working for a number of radio stations in the Detroit area. He was the announcer for “The Lone Ranger” radio show, originally broadcast by WXYZ in Detroit.

In 1936, he joined Wayne State as its first teacher of courses in broadcasting. “In that period,” the Regents noted in his retirement memoir, “he also developed a system for audience measurement utilizing diaries, a technique that now is widely used in the radio and television industry.

“To both his teaching and administrative functions, Prof. Garrison brought great vigor and creativity. His work did much to foster and develop the curriculum in broadcasting and his activities as the director of television broadcasting activities made Michigan a leader in the field,” the Regents added.

At the U-M, Garrison was instrumental in establishing the Storer Broadcasting Co.-WJBK-TV Program Award and Production Grant, which offered aspiring students an opportunity to gain practical television experience and to see their effort presented in final form.

Garrison’s service activities included membership on the executive council of the Speech Association of America.

In 1990, Garrison received the Pioneer Award from Michigan Public Radio. He was the co-author of Radio and Television, first published in 1950, with a fifth edition published in 1978. The book was an introduction to broadcasting, a social history of radio and television and practical manual for beginners in the industry. The first two editions were authored by Garrison and Giraud Chester of NBC; the remaining editions by Garrison and speech Prof. Edgar Willis.

Garrison’s students included Hollywood producer-director John Rich, former U-M staff member Hazen Schumacher, and Ann Arbor author and also former U-M staff member Alfred Slote, with whom he co-wrote two mystery novels—The Santa Claus Killer and Maze—under the pen name A.H. Garnet. Maze takes place in Harbour Woods, a fictional town with similarities to Ann Arbor.

“What I remember most about Garnet is that he opened opportunities,” Slote said. “I was writing short stories and going nowhere. I came here and knocked out short items for the radio that were broadcast the next day. He made things happen. This was an arid place before he came. He was a man who started things, who was open to all sorts of different experiences. And he loved quality.”

Schumacher, who succeeded Garrison as director of broadcasting, also was a faculty colleague when Garrison returned to teaching.

“He was a very perceptive teacher and critic, and a very good radio and TV director,” Schumacher said. “He hired me in 1950 and I worked under him for 20-plus years. He was a terrific boss and a good administrator, tough when he had to be. He even broke down doors to create a studio when there wasn’t one the day before.

“As a colleague, he was very helpful, a gentle, wonderful man.”

Garrison is survived by his daughter, Patricia (Alberto) Aramendia, of Foster City, and two grandchildren, Michael and Laura.

Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice or the Program in Film and Video Studies, 2512 Frieze Building, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. July 17 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor.

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