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Glenn A. May

Glenn MayDied: November 10, 2020

Glenn May died at home in the presence of his family, a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. He was born in Brooklyn, with a love for the theater shared with his parents, particularly his mother who was an actress. He prepared for Yale at Midwood High School, Brooklyn, was a resident of Silliman College, and a history major. While an undergraduate at Yale, Glenn joined ROTC and upon graduation, served in active duty in the Army during the Vietnam War.

His initial degree from Yale was not enough. Following his military service, he returned for graduate school, receiving his doctorate in history in 1975. After some initial teaching posts, he landed at the University of Oregon in 1983. He spent the remainder of his academic career there, retiring in 2016 as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Asian History.

While at the University, Glenn taught courses on the history of Southeast Asia, the history of US Foreign Relations, and the Cold War. His own research focused on the Philippines where he spent a great deal of time, fully immersing himself in the culture and language of the country.

A hardworking and prolific writer, Glenn authored six books, most of them on the late 19th-early 20th century Philippines. He was known for his careful research using primary sources and resulting unique insights. He often challenged established scholarship and partisanship to provide a more balanced rendering of Philippine history. He did not seem to mind admitting that: “Two adjectives that repeatedly appear in reviews of my books are ‘provocative’ and ‘controversial.’ Suffice it to say that not all readers are convinced by my arguments.” (50th Reunion Class Book)

Possessing an adventurous spirit and a curious and nimble mind, Glenn was fluent in French and Tagalog, and he also studied Spanish and Chinese. Besides spending time in the Philippines, he traveled to France, Vietnam, Australia, Taiwan, and the Netherlands, and delighted in meeting people of all nationalities and backgrounds.

He drew a good deal of contentment from his academic career. In our 45th Reunion Class Book, he stated: “On balance, it’s been a satisfying career…. I like my job. I still find it puzzling that someone actually pays me — not much, of course — to do something I like to do.”

While he possessed a superb intellect, Glenn was never boastful. Instead, all who knew him will remember his dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. Though a self-described curmudgeon, Glenn was a gentle soul who rooted for the underdog and expressed a strong sense of social and political justice.

Glenn is survived by his wife, Helen Liu and three children. In Glenn’s memory, his family and colleagues set up the Glenn Anthony May Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide aid to students engaged in Philippine Studies.


Jim Roberts

Fred Berg remembers: Both Glenn and I were History majors and we took several courses together. We also took an Economics course that met Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (yes, Saturday!) mornings. Glenn was a very bright guy with a dry sense of humor, and we were friends (although not close friends) as well as classmates during our undergraduate years.

I exchanged emails with Glenn during the bio-chasing phase of preparing our 50th Reunion Class Book. I encouraged Glenn to come to the reunion, but he wrote back that his commitments in Oregon would prevent him from attending. I wish that I had been more persistent.

May he rest in peace.

Cary Koplin remembers: I took second year French with Glenn and he is the textbook example of the quiet but impactful low-keyed Classmate who created a meaningful stitch in the tapestry that is the Yale Class of 1966. I wish I had kept closer to him and that he had kept closer (ties) to the Class.