A Tribute to Michael Anderson

by Charles Silver

Michael H. Anderson
Photo courtesy of Alan Kotok

I first met Mike Anderson on an airplane flying from Los Angeles to Hilo, Hawaii, to begin my training as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia. It was a large group of over 150 recruits and I was sharing a seat with a really interesting guy from Minnesota who unlike most of us, who were right out of college, had actually held a real job on a newspaper. When we arrived in Hilo, we were met by the PC staff who quickly separated us by future assignments and sent us off to several different training locations on the island.  My seatmate went to a different center and that was that. A photo of Mike in 1968 from the Peace Corps bio book is attached.

Several decades later, I was seated at a table with a number of other Foreign Service Officers attending a conference in Bangkok. As is typical at these meetings, one chats with colleagues about where they have served. “Oh, you were in the Peace Corps…Where?…Malaysia…When?…Really, so was I….What Group…Hey, that’s my group…”  It turns out that I had met my long-lost seatmate who, like me, joined the United States Information Agency, and was, again like me, currently serving with a US Embassy in Southeast Asia.  Truly, it is a small world.

Having reconnected, our paths frequently crossed. In 2006, Mike replaced me as Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, moving into my old apartment and even hiring our cook.  In retirement, we frequently met at lectures at think-tanks, shared membership in professional organizations, and got together for lunch.

Mike Anderson Peace Corps Photo (courtesy of Charles Silver)

Mike played a key role in keeping me tied in to the foreign affairs community.  He was an active member of more associations and groups than one can imagine.  He encouraged me to join several organizations and we served together on the boards of two of them. He was active in the Friends of Malaysia (a returned PCV organization) and was instrumental in raising money for small grants to organizations in that county. He regularly attended lectures and made his former colleagues aware of upcoming events.

In the days when information was not as widely available as it is in the internet age, USIA issued a daily Wireless File that we used to keep local contacts informed of reliable world news and feature articles not available in the local media. Overseas audiences valued it.  In his retirement, Mike issued his own updated email version of this service.  Several times a month and sometimes a couple of times a week, I would receive an article of interest from Mike, or an advisory that Professor X would be talking at the Z Foundation.  There alerts often elicited on-going discussion and exchange among the recipients, which was what the original wireless file was supposed to do with foreign audiences.  Mike was an outstanding FSO during his long career and in retirement he kept doing what he had done for three decades – engaging his friends and colleagues in discussion of events and ideas.

I was honored to have known him and will miss him.

Charles Silver is a retired Foreign Service Officer and a member of the Public Diplomacy Association of America.

Michael Hugh Anderson (1945-21)

Michael Hugh Anderson, age 75, passed away after suffering a heart attack on June 20, 2021.

Michael, of Arlington Virginia, formerly of International Falls, Minnesota was born on October 28, 1945, to Paul Albert Anderson and Helen Ansley Anderson (Tibbetts). He received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii / East-West Center, Honolulu, and an MA and a BA in Journalism/Mass Communication from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, he was an English teacher and a journalism lecturer/trainer in Malaysia. At the University of Minnesota, he was an instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Information Services Coordinator for the College of Education.

His media experience included reporting stints on daily newspapers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota and serving as editor-in-chief of The Minnesota Daily when it was the world’s largest college newspaper. He began working for the US Information Agency in 1981 and served in many South and Southeast Asian countries (Papua New Guinea, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Philippines, and Indonesia), often serving as the Counselor for Public Affairs, managing the Embassy’s press, cultural, and educational affairs.

He was a remarkable Foreign Service professional and received many awards including the Exceptional Service in the Public Interest Certificate, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the East-West Center. He retired from the State Department in 2011 and was continually active in volunteer and philanthropic activities in the Washington, DC, area; among his favorite organizations were Friends of Malaysia, the Public Diplomacy Association of America, and the Public Diplomacy Council.

Mike shared his engaging personality and love of journalism and public affairs with his friends and family, often with his memorable Christmas letters and special “clipping service.” He loved to travel world-wide and was beginning his first post-COVID trip when he passed. He especially enjoyed spending time with family and friends at the family cabin on Rainy Lake in the Ontario / Minnesota Borderland, where he will be particularly missed.

He is survived by his brother Paul (Bonnie), his nephew Jesse (Julie), and his niece Lindsey (Pete) Fabian, four grandnieces (Annika, Leah, Claire, and Emma), and many beloved cousins and friends in the United States, Canada, and around the world.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Mike’s honor to the University of the Minnesota’s Hubbard School of Journalism Scholarship Fund, the Peace Corps, or Friends of Malaysia. A memorial service is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. (visitation l0:00 a.m.) September 16 at Atonement Lutheran Church in New Brighton, Minnesota. A celebration of Michael’s life will occur on July 31 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in the Astoria Condominiums library (2100 Lee Highway) in Arlington, VA and another celebration will occur at the family cabin on Rainy Lake in Ontario on August 29.