John Strassburger

Strassburger.jpgTwo years ago I mentioned several times the difference John Strassburger had made in my family's life. Strassburger (left) was then the president of Ursinus College, a small liberal arts school in Collegeville, Pa. During WW II my dad had been rushed through Ursinus in two years, under the Navy's V-12 program, before going straight to medical school and then serving during the Korean War era as a Navy doctor. Through the following long decades of his role as a beloved small-town doctor in California, he had his Harvard Medical School and American College of Cardiologists etc certificates on his office wall -- but no college diploma, since he had never graduated. That's him as an Ursinus lineman, offense and defense, on the right.
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A few years ago, John Strassburger began correcting that historic oversight, making a big, celebratory deal out of honoring the V-12 era alums-but-not-graduates with Ursinus diplomas and degrees. Before going to China in 2006 I went to Collegeville to receive a diploma on my dad's behalf -- and in 2008, a few months before my dad's death in California, I made a trip back from China to speak at the Ursinus commencement and tell the story of his college years.

I have just learned that John Strassburger died late last month, at 68, of what was apparently a fast-developing cancer. He had stepped down as president only three months before. He was an accomplished historian and a polymath, and he really represented the American small-school liberal-arts tradition at its finest. I am glad to have known him, I respect what he meant to this college and its community, and I wish his family the best. Video of memorial service here.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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