Michael Boro Petrovich (1922 -89)

John W. Barker, November 1989

Michael Boro Petrovich, former Evjue-Bascom Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison died of cancer on March 28, 1989 at the age of 67. His death comes within a year of his retirement from thirty-seven years of service at the university.

Born in Cleveland, OH, of Serbian and Croatian parentage, Petrovich was educated at Western Reserve University (B.A. 1941) and Columbia University (M.A. 1943, Ph.D. 1955). Between 1943 and 1945 he was an officer in the OSS, his most important service seen in Belgrade as a member of the Independent American Military Mission to Marshall Tito.

His career at the University of Wisconsin began in 1950. His rise through the faculty ranks was studded with awards and distinctions, campus and professional, for his scholarship and teaching, and culminated in his designation as the Evjue-Bascom Professor of History. His campus service was extensive and included the organization of a Russian area studies program.

Petrovich understood academic commitment not as an esoteric specialization, but as a richly variegated totality. Supervising some sixty master's and doctoral dissertations, he trained a large number of disciples who carry on his work in Russian, Soviet, East European, and Balkan history. Equally dedicated to undergraduate education, Petrovich was recognized as a master teacher whose classes were always popular and whose students long remembered his wisdom, insight, and eloquence.

But he saw his educational responsibilities—especially in the post-World War II era when understanding of Eastern Europe was so needed but so flawed—as far wider than merely campus activity. His lectures were taped and repeatedly broadcast on the state radio network. He spoke tirelessly before civic groups, ran adult-education seminars, and led tours to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Active in community life, Petrovich was a devout Orthodox Christian, a talented amateur musician, an expert on liturgy, and the founder of an unusually fine choir at Madison's Greek Church.

Articulate and eloquent in both formal lecturing and private conversation, Petrovich was a warm friend, a multifaceted human being, and a remarkable scholar and teacher. He is deeply mourned and sorely missed.

John W. Barker
University of Wisconsin-Madison