A Legacy Beyond the Classroom - New England College

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A Legacy Beyond the Classroom

Former Anthropology professor Michael Wireman holding a skull

Professor Michael Wireman’s 25 years of teaching and a gift that will last for years to come

New England College shares many stories of students who have found their place here and have felt NEC’s impact long after they graduate. But this is the story of Professor Michael Wireman. He retired from teaching sociology and anthropology at NEC 25 years ago, and he carried NEC with him the rest of his life, even when dementia took hold and robbed him of many of his  memories.

Wireman passed away September 25, 2021, but his legacy at NEC goes beyond the classroom. He bequeathed just under $287,000 to NEC and requested that all memorials be made to NEC’s Office of Advancement.

“He was a planner,” his niece Natalie states. “He had written notes years and years before about where he wanted his money to go when he died. He wanted to help students go to college or for NEC to use the money in a way it sees fit.”

Wireman originally attended the University of Edinburgh, where he majored in economics. He then transferred to the University of Chicago and changed his major to anthropology. Wireman applied for a teaching position at NEC, Natalie believes, after he relocated to Bradford, New Hampshire, to serve as the caretaker of an historic home where he lived his entire NEC career.

Wireman joined the faculty of NEC in the fall of 1970. Teaching sociology and anthropology allowed him to combine his love of world travel, people, and cultures. He once went on a dig with famed paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey and lived in a  Newfoundland fishing village while studying its inhabitants. At NEC, he led a Study Away trip to Africa (he and a student crashed a Jeep into a ravine, and thankfully, neither was hurt). He also formed very strong connections with his students, some of whom became lifelong friends of his. One of his former students lives in Maine, and the two stayed in touch until the very end of Wireman’s life.

After retiring from NEC in August 1995, Wireman moved to a large old home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Wireman moved into an assisted living facility when he began to struggle with dementia. Even then, Natalie states, his time at NEC remained very vivid  and played a major role in his life. He often referred to the lounge as “student hall” and the other residents as students. The smile in Natalie’s voice is evident as she shares these memories. “Uncle Michael was able to reach his students in a special way. It was never a job for him. He absolutely loved what he did at NEC.”

This story was published in the Spring 2022 edition of the New England College Magazine.

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