Michael T Shipley

April 22, 1941 ~ July 31, 2020 (age 79)


Michael Thomas Shipley was born in 1941 during humble circumstances following the Great Depression in Kansas City, Missouri. He often spent the summers in the country with his grandmother. He played football for the varsity team in high school. Upon graduation he worked briefly in the local commodities market and soon realized he wanted to further his education. While continuing to support himself, he went to school at night and achieved top marks in his classes. He was awarded academic scholarships from MIT, where he graduated in 1972 with a PhD in Philosophy and Neuroscience. At the forefront of his discipline, he traveled the world to collaborate with other top researchers in his field.

He married his wife, Andrea, in the great Theatiner Church at the center of Munich in 1976. After living in Lausanne Switzerland, they came to the United States where he had a son, Christian, in Chicago, Illinois in 1980. Three years later his daughter Katherine was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he bought a beautiful victorian house with stained glass windows and many fireplaces in a strong family community. While working passionately, often long into the night and over the weekend, he also played an active role as a father. He attended his children’s school and sporting events, took his son fishing and often brought the family to movies, amusement parks and fireworks displays. Every year he would drive the family to places like Florida and Kiawah Island, or throughout the western US, touring the wonders of the Great Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. Many times, he traveled with his wife and children to Germany to stay with extended family for weeks at a time, visiting great cities and exploring the beautiful countryside together.

He was known for his love of books, sports, movies and music. He would have grand parties with friends, colleagues, neighbors and family where he was the centerpiece of intelligent, humorous and animated conversation. He was featured in the local newspaper, National Geographic, Glamour, and many leading academic journals.

In 1994 he became Chairman of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine where he founded the Department of Neuroscience. Continuing to play an active role in his family, he practiced softball with his daughter in the evenings. Over the years he wrote multiple grants, securing millions of dollars in funding for the university. In 2009 he was awarded the Donald D. Wilson Distinguished Professorship. He was loved and admired as a leader, cultivating friendships that lasted for decades. Each year, he and his wife put together a grand Christmas celebration at his home. Dr. Michael Shipley established himself as one of the longest standing departmental Chairmen at the University of Maryland. He worked for many years while facing serious health complications, until the last year of his life, at the age of 79, even though he could have retired in great comfort many years earlier.

He was a voracious reader of books, periodicals and newspapers. His love for knowledge brought him his greatest joy. He was brilliant in areas such as history, technology, business and finance. He also excelled in physical fitness, lifting weights into his 70s. Next he became an avid cyclist, inspiring his wife to join him while letting nothing deter him, not even broken bones. 

Michael respected people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and races. During the 1960s he was active in the Civil Rights Movement. In raising his children, he carefully explained the historical background of their country from the earliest age, always making sure they understood the privileges they enjoyed and this fundamentally shaped their lives.

He was loved and admired deeply by his family. Following his example, his children graduated from College. His adult son, living in nearby Annapolis, would come to visit him at every opportunity. Filled with excitement, he would talk to his father for hours over dinner and espresso, seeking his highly valued opinion on all matters of life. His son would say that it was the time he found himself able to read and discuss intelligent books with his Father, one year on a family vacation in Kiawah Island as a college student, that he had the greatest feeling of gratification in his life.

Michael lead an honest life, a rich life, and a life of integrity. He was faithfully married to his loving wife without interruption until his death in 2020. He was a strong man. He was also a humble man, insisting on washing the pots and pans by hand after dinner each night. Although he provided many times above what was needed for his loved ones, the lives of his family and friends will be greatly diminished without his wonderful presence. He passed away surrounded by, and filled with, love, to his very last breath. Until we meet him again, everyone is wishing him the best on the beautiful journey ahead.

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