sealPurdue News

April 4, 2003

Purdue alumni to award scholarship in memory of former POW

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue University Navy and Marine Corps Alumni League will award its first annual scholarship in memory of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Christian, an alumnus who was imprisoned with Sen. John McCain and others in a POW camp during the Vietnam War.

The $1,000 scholarship will be awarded at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 26, at the ROTC Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Purdue Armory. The recipient is a Purdue Naval ROTC student who will serve as an ensign in the Navy or second lieutenant in the Marine Corps after graduation.

Christian's wife, Charlotte Christian Neal, and Indiana Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan, a scholarship campaign co-sponsor and Vietnam War POW, will present the scholarship. Purdue President Martin C. Jischke will speak, and many of Christian's classmates also will be present at the ceremony.

Christian graduated from the Purdue Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program (NESEP) in 1964. While serving in Vietnam, his plane was shot down on April 24, 1967. He endured 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, said 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 said. "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 have raised more than $50,000 for the permanently endowed scholarship, which will be used to provide financial assistance each semester to Purdue Naval ROTC students.

Other campaign co-sponsors include 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 Reid Ricciardi, student services development director, at (765) 496-3947,

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

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

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Related Information:
Biography of Michael Christian:


Related Web sites:
Purdue Naval ROTC
Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program

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