John Shy (1931-2022)

John Shy is memorialized in this obituary that appears on the Ann Arbor News Michigan Live website:

Shy, John 3/23/1931 - 4/8/2022 Ann Arbor

On April 8, 2022, John Shy died peacefully after a brief stay at the Arbor Hospice in Saline, Michigan at the age of 91. In the week preceding his death, he was surrounded by friends and family members including Arlene, his beloved wife of over 46 years.

John Shy was born March 23, 1931, in Dayton, Ohio, the only child of Willard Alden and Mary Margaret (Brush) Shy. The family moved frequently during the Depression and Second World War, to Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo and back to Detroit. He attended nine elementary schools in eight years. On what he describes as "a youthful impulse," John applied to the United States Military Academy at the age of 17, graduating in 1952 near the top of his class. He and Sally Masselink of Detroit (Vassar '52) married soon after. They had three children, Elizabeth, Timothy, and Jennifer. They were divorced in 1975.

After serving in the airborne infantry in Japan, 1952-1955, John resigned from the Army and began graduate study in History. He received his M.A. degree in 1957 from the University of Vermont and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1961. He taught at Princeton, 1959-1968, rising to Associate Professor, and specializing in early American history while teaching a course in military history on the side. His first book, coauthored with Peter Paret, then a colleague at Princeton, dealt with guerrilla warfare. He came to the University of Michigan in 1968 as Associate Professor of History, and in 1971 was promoted to full Professor.

Throughout his career, John was the world's foremost authority on the military aspects of the American Revolution. His first book, Toward Lexington: The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the Revolution, published in 1966, a seminal work, received the John H. Dunning Prize from the American Historical Association. Among his other publications are, A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence, published in 1976, revised in 1990, and a chapter on Jomini in Makers of Modern Strategy, 1986. John demonstrated a remarkable breadth of knowledge through his work on early American history, the history of war, European history from the second half of the 18th century to the first half of the 19th century, as well as contemporary history.

Teaching courses in military history and the American colonial period, John guided the work of a number of Ph.D. candidates. He was a frequent member of the executive committee and served a term as associate chair of the History Department. He served on the council of the Institute of Early American History and on the Department of the Army's Historical Advisory Committee. As a member of the William L. Clements Library's Committee of Management, he served from 1967 to 1995. He was a visiting professor at the United States Army War College and the Ecole Etudes en Sciences Sociales. In 1983-84, he served as the Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford.

From the University of Michigan, John received a Distinguished Senior Faculty Award and a Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, which stated, "He has led the way in emancipating military history from its traditional narrow focus upon strategy and tactics, making it instead an essential component of any full understanding of humanity's past." Both awards also attest to his strengths as a teacher of undergraduate and graduate students. John retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Michigan in 1996, continuing to lecture, write, and actively participate in the Military Studies Group which he helped to found in 1968. And he continued to be a staunch advocate of the Clements Library, working to maintain this "jewel in the University's crown as one of the world's most important archival repositories of early Americana."

After his retirement, he lived contentedly with his wife, Arlene, in Ann Arbor, following the advice of his doctors (mostly), and grateful for the opportunity to connect with his children and grandchildren. John was an avid reader who remembered what he read as well as the details of what seemed like every movie, baseball game, and golf tournament he had ever watched!

John is survived by his wife, Arlene, his daughters Elizabeth Manderen (Michael) of Oberlin, Ohio, and Jennifer Shy (Michael Feiner) of Albany, California; his four grandchildren, Benjamin (Sasha), Hannah, and Gabriel Feiner, and Daniel Shapiro; his daughter-in-law, Inna Shapiro. He is also survived by his step-daughter Laura Richey (Bill), his step-granddaughter, Angela Delaere (Jay), and one great-grandson. He was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife, and his son Timothy Shy. On Monday, July 18, 2022, at 4 p.m., there will be a Memorial gathering in the Hussey Room at the Michigan League, 911 North University Ave., Ann Arbor. A reception will follow.

To honor John's teaching and his long service to the Clements Library, a Fellowship has been established in his name. Gifts may be made to the John W. Shy Endowed Fund, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan, 909 S. University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1190.

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