Max Heirich (1960)


Heirich, Max Arthur 5/13/1931 - 4/27/2017 Ann Arbor, Michigan Max Arthur Heirich, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Michigan, left us April 27th, 2017 at the age of 85 after a long illness that included cancer and heart disease. He was known to many in the Ann Arbor community for his teaching, social activism, and work in alternative medicine. His academic work encompassed the sociology of religion, social movements, and healthcare. He was a longtime member of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting. Max will be remembered as an inspired spiritual seeker by those who knew him and by the many people whom he helped. Born the son of Charles and Virginia Heirich in Aurora IL on May 13, 1931, Max grew up in Muskogee, OK. His early life was strongly influenced by a passionate in-depth study of the Bible. He trained as a youth minister and after high school he entered the College of Emporia (Kansas) with the intention of becoming a minister. He transferred to Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond IN, graduating in 1953. During these Korean War years Max became the first conscientious objector in the history of his hometown, Muskogee, and served his Alternative Service teaching at Warren Wilson College in Asheville North Carolina. As a staff member of the American Friends Service Committee for 6 years (College Secretary) Max visited campuses--primarily in the south-eastern states--raising questions with students about war, peace, and race relations. In this role he was present at the founding of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 and worked with prominent activists in the civil rights movement including Ella Baker and Martin Luther King Jr. These years contributed to his life-long passionate involvement in defense of social justice and a deep personal identification with the African-American community. In 1960 Max entered graduate school in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. While he was planning to focus on social change the 1964 Free Speech Movement erupted and this became his dissertation topic. This work became a book, "The Spiral of Conflict: Berkeley 1964", that remains the most authoritative documentary account of those events. In 1967 he joined the University of Michigan Sociology department. Until his retirement from the University of Michigan in 1999 Max was a respected and popular teacher in the Residential College as well as in the Sociology Department. Max co-founded the interdisciplinary UM Health Policy Forum and for twenty years held adjunct appointments with the University of Michigan Medical School where he taught courses in patient-doctor relations and comparative medicine. He worked with the Worker Health Program at the University's Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations where he designed, implemented, and evaluated the effectiveness of programs for disease prevention and health promotion in the workplace. He served as consultant to NIH's Complementary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and to the Obama administration White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. He co-authored congressional testimony given by the American Friends Service Committee in support of the Affordable Care Act. In 1971 Max developed a disabling health condition. As part of his recovery he began to practice Hatha Yoga through the YMCA, a practice that he continued for the rest of his life. These yoga contacts led to learning Polarity Therapy, an energy healing method based on the Eastern concept of Chi. Max introduced this therapy to Ann Arbor where it continues to be well represented in the alternative medicine community. He spent many years working with recovering addicts in inner city Detroit where Polarity Therapy provided a low cost treatment for their symptoms. In the 1980s he founded the Positive Living Network in Detroit which provided alternative healthcare treatments to individuals with HIV and AIDS. As a result of his Hatha yoga practice Max began to have powerful meditation experiences. In order to understand these experiences he began to meet eastern spiritual teachers. He spent a year's sabbatical apprenticing to non-Western healers and in 1985 one of those teachers took him to her native India on a tour of the Himalayas. These experiences led him to refocus his academic life with an intention to bring Western and non-Western understandings of reality into a more dynamic interchange. In retirement Max refused to give up his calling to make the world a better place. After many years of trying to influence health-care decision makers he turned to seeking better living alternatives and health care for the elderly. His last years were spent mobilizing groups to promote renewable energy at a local and statewide level. Max will be remembered for his unfailing ability to make friends everywhere he went, his passion for music, and his love of terrible puns. He lived his life from the heart. He is survived by his children and their spouses: Douglas Heirich of Palo Alto, California and his daughters Kyra and Marissa; Alan Heirich of Half Moon Bay, California and his children Laura, Nicole and John; Julia Heirich of St. Oyens, Switzerland and her daughters Helena and Camille; Deborah Maddox of Chicago IL and her daughters Charlotte and Clara; by his former wife Jane Ruby Heirich, his cat Zima, as well as many, many, dear friends. A memorial will take place on Saturday May 27 at 10 am at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Road in Ann Arbor.

Published in Ann Arbor News on May 4, 2017
Dissertation Title
Demonstrations at Berkeley: Collective Behavior During the Free Speech Movement of 1964-1965
Dissertation Book Title
The spiral of conflict: Berkeley, 1964
New York,