Max Arthur Heirich

Heirich—Max Arthur Heirich, 85, on April 27, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Mich., after a long struggle with cancer and heart disease. Max was born on May 13, 1931, in Aurora, Ill., to Virginia and Charles Heirich. He grew up in Muskogee, Okla., influenced by in-depth Bible study. He trained as a youth minister and attended College of Emporia then Earlham College, graduating in 1953. During the Korean War he became the first conscientious objector in Muskogee’s history, performing Alternative Service teaching at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. As college secretary of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for six years, he visited campuses raising questions with students about war, peace, and race relations. He was present at the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 and worked with prominent civil rights activists such as Ella Baker and Martin Luther King Jr. Also in 1960 he entered graduate school in sociology at University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation, “The Spiral of Conflict: Berkeley, 1964,” is still the most authoritative account of the Free Speech Movement. In 1967 he became a respected and popular teacher in the Sociology Department and the Residential College at the University of Michigan (UM). The next year he joined Ann Arbor (Mich.) Meeting, where he served on the Peace, Ministry and Counsel, Quaker House, and Gay and Lesbian Concerns committees. He was assistant clerk for seven years.
In 1971, a disabling health condition led him to practice Hatha yoga and study Polarity Therapy, which he introduced to Ann Arbor, where it is still used. He provided recovering addicts this low-cost treatment in inner city Detroit for many years. In the 1980s he founded the Positive Living Network in Detroit, providing alternative healthcare treatments to people with HIV and AIDS. His powerful meditation experiences with yoga led to study with Eastern spiritual teachers and healers during a year’s sabbatical. He cofounded the interdisciplinary UM Health Policy Forum; taught an undergraduate course on Western and non-Western medicine; and for 20 years held adjunct appointments in the UM Medical School, teaching courses in patient–doctor relations and comparative medicine such as “Understandings of Health and Disease in the Classical Medical Systems of India and Tibet.” With the Worker Health Program at the university’s Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, he designed, implemented, and evaluated workplace disease prevention and health programs. Retiring from UM in 1999, he served as consultant to the National Institute of Health’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the Obama administration’s White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, coauthoring AFSC’s congressional testimony in support of the Affordable Care Act.
Toward the end of his life, in addition to seeking better living and healthcare for the elderly, he promoted renewable energy, both through Quaker channels and as a board member of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light. From 2010 until 2014 he represented Lake Erie Yearly Meeting on the general board of Friends Committee on National Legislation. He often accompanied people to their immigration appointments and hearings in Detroit as part of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR). Friends remember this longtime Ann Arbor Friend as an inspired spiritual seeker with an unfailing ability to make friends, a passion for music, a love of terrible puns, and for his work encompassing religion, social justice, and healthcare.
Max is survived by four children, Douglas Heirich, Alan Heirich, Julia Heirich, and Deborah Maddox, and their spouses; his former wife, Jane Ruby Heirich; his cat, Zima; and many dear friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.