sealPurdue News

May 17, 2002

Purdue alumni establish scholarship in memory of fellow hero

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue University Navy and Marine Corps Alumni League is seeking donations for a permanently endowed scholarship to honor the memory of Michael Christian, an alumnus who was imprisoned with Sen. John McCain and others in a POW camp during the Vietnam War.

Christian graduated from the Purdue Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program (NESEP) in 1964. While serving in the Vietnam War, his plane was shot down on April 24, 1967. He endured brutal torture as a POW for almost six years until his release on March 4, 1973. Christian retired in 1978 following a tour at a naval air station in Virginia. He died in a fire in 1983.

McCain, a scholarship campaign co-sponsor, says Christian served as an inspiration for his fellow prisoners by fashioning a flag out of handkerchief remnants.

"His patriotism and resilience helped us keep alive our hope and our pride in difficult circumstances," McCain says. "One of my fondest recollections is stirred every time I hear our Pledge of Allegiance. For it was with Mike standing before a tiny flag he had covertly made for us to pledge our allegiance to our country from a silent prison cell, that our love for America's blessings was so vividly reaffirmed."

The Purdue University Navy and Marine Corps Alumni League Executive Committee plans to raise $100,000 for the scholarship, which will be used to provide financial assistance each year to Purdue Naval ROTC students. Committee chairman Jim Graham, who graduated from Purdue with a chemical engineering degree in 1955 and a master's degree in 1960, says he hopes the Purdue community will respond generously.

"We are confident the Purdue NESEP/NROTC community will answer the call and we will give Michael Christian the victory he deserves through this memorial scholarship," Graham says. "This scholarship will be a meaningful assistance to the future 'Michael Christians' that need a little help in completing their educational preparation before embarking on a career as a Navy or Marine officer in defense of freedom. Each time these scholarships are awarded, future generations will have the opportunity to learn about Michael Christian, a great American patriot and hero."

Other campaign co-sponsors include Indiana Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan, a former POW; Purdue President Emeritus Arthur Hansen; former astronaut Gene Cernan; and several retired military officers and POWs.

Those interested in contributing to the Michael Christian Purdue NROTC Scholarship Fund should contact June P. Lang, student services development director, at (765) 496-2406,

CONTACT: Charles Schlehuser, NROTC alumni board executive committee member, (765) 494-0317,

Related information:
Biography of Michael Christian

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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