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Published: Saturday, 10/3/2009

Bowling Green professor was expert on Middle East

BOWLING GREEN - John G. Merriam, 76, an expert on Middle East and African politics who taught at Bowling Green State University, died Wednesday in his Ottawa Hills home.

He died from complications of injuries suffered in 2007, when he fell at his former home in Toledo's Old Orchard neighborhood, his wife, Nancy, said.

Formerly of Bowling Green, he retired from BGSU in 1993 as an associate professor of political science.

"He genuinely enjoyed the study of current events in the Middle East," his wife said. "He liked to know what was going on, and he liked very much imparting that to students."

Beyond the university, he wrote newspaper opinion pieces and was a contributor to The Blade's Readers' Forum. Toledo television stations interviewed him for evening news programs.

"He spent a lot of time giving talks and lectures," said Roger Anderson, a retired BGSU associate professor of political science.

"He was an expert in oil politics because of the Middle East, and he gave a lot of talks on the necessity of energy conservation," said Mr. Anderson, who, like Mr. Merriam, was hired by BGSU in 1967.

His father, Gordon Merriam, was in the diplomatic corps, posted in Cairo. Mr. Merriam was born at a clinic in Lausanne, Switzerland, where his mother, Eunice, was sent for the occasion. He lived his first year in Cairo. He moved with his mother to London, and, when World War II began, to New York City at his father's insistence.

He was a graduate of Hamilton College and served in Germany during a hitch in the Army. Afterward, inspired by his father's experience, he pursued Middle East studies. He received a master's degree from Boston University and a doctorate in political science from Indiana University.

From 1964-67, he taught at American University in Cairo. Later, on sabbatical from BGSU, he did first-hand research: He and his family moved to Cairo. In the early 1980s, he spent his sabbatical in Pakistan and interviewed Afghan refugees fleeing the war begun by the Soviet invasion, Mr. Anderson said.

Afterward, he co-edited and was a contributor to a book about Afghanistan.

He'd been a board member of the Greater Toledo Association of Arab-Americans. He was one of three local educators honored during the group's annual banquet in 2005.

He and his wife rented houses in Italy and France and spent summers in Maine.

He was a member of the Torch Club, a group of professionals who present papers on topics of concern to society, and of the Toledo branch of the English-Speaking Union of the United States.

He was formerly married to Kathleen Sutherland.

Surviving are his wife, Nancy, whom he married in November, 1993; daughters, Heather Merriam and Jennifer Truax; son, Christopher Merriam; stepdaughter, Ellen Ruddle; stepson, Ryan Fox; sister, Eleanor Kuniholm, and 20 grandchildren and step-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. A celebration of life is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 12 in St. Mark Episcopal Church, Toledo. The family suggests tributes to the church or American Near East Refugee Aid, or ANERA.



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