Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship

"I am having a thoroughly exhausting but most exciting time here…The Asmat is like a huge puzzle with the variations in ceremony and art style forming the pieces. My trips are enabling me to comprehend (if only in a superficial, rudimentary manner) the nature of this puzzle…"

—Excerpt from a letter from Michael Rockefeller, November 13, 1961 Gerbrands, A. A., Ed. (1967). The Asmat
of New Guinea:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Expeditions 1961. New York, NY: The New York Graphic Society



The Fellowship is established to assist responsible, sensitive, and thoughtful young men and women of good intelligence who show promise of making an important contribution to the community, nation, or world in which they live. It is important that they demonstrate seriousness of purpose, a creative independence of mind and heart, a warm interest in people, and a sincere concern for the struggles and problems of their fellow man in the modern world. A good academic record is also important, but the primary emphasis is not to be placed on grades but rather on the personal character and promise of individual growth. 

It is also intended that the young men and women to whom the Fellowship is awarded should be at a formative stage in the development of their aspirations, ideals, loyalties, and powers of understanding. More specifically, they should be individuals who have just completed their B.A. degree and are undecided about their life's work, are not married, and who are searching for new understanding and insight into themselves and their interests before committing themselves to some specific program of work or commencing a professional career. Finally, they should be persons who are seeking, as an important part of this process of self-development, the opportunity for deepening and broadening their experiences with other peoples and cultures. 

The Award

The Award

The stipend is set annually by the Michael C. Rockefeller Administrative Board, which currently offers five to six individual awards of $25,000 each year. Fellows who marry before or during the term abroad will forfeit the fellowship. 

Application and Selection

Application Requirements

  • Application form; 
  • Resume/list of activities (not to exceed two pages); 
  • Current unofficial transcript; 
  • Essay
    • No more than 1,000 words
    • Outlines the candidate's plans for spending a year immersed in a foreign culture, addressing both the proposed project and the potential for growth; and 
  • Two letters of recommendation, which should comment on your character and the feasibility of the project.


Applications are available at the beginning of the fall semester and are due in mid-October. A selection committee, which includes Harvard faculty members and members of Michael Rockefeller's family and friends, reviews applications and calls a slate of finalists for interviews, usually in early December. Decisions are announced following interviews. For advice on drawing up specific plans, students should consult their House Fellowships Advisor(s). Reports from past fellows are also available in the URAF office. 

To download a copy of the Rockefeller Fellowship application, visit the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships application instructions page

Please direct questions about the program to fellowships@fas.harvard.edu or 617-495-8126.

Information Meetings

Information Meetings

Panel presentations by program administrators, faculty committee members, and former fellows are designed to introduce the Michael C. Rockefeller Fellowship to prospective applicants, and to provide information to help applicants put together competitive dossiers. These meetings will be held in September in House clusters, although meetings are open to all who are interested regardless of House affiliation.

Current Fellows

Sara Bourne, Ireland
Emily Romero Gonzalez, Peru
James Gui, Taiwan
Aymen Kabir, Ethiopia
Amanda Maille, Costa Rica
Annabelle Tao, Australia

2020 -

Mei Lynn Colby, China
Raul Cuevas Pelayo, Japan, Thailand
Sarah Lipson, French Polynesia
Grace Roberts Burbank, Italy
Daniel Rodriguez, Spain
Meghan Tveit, Greece


Robert Anderson, Spain
Hilda Jordan, Panama
Theodore Lebryk, Hong Kong
Maria Park, Seychelles
Karen Reyes, Spain
Daniel Shen, Canada
Inaara Shiraz, United Kingdom
Disha Trivedi, New Zealand

Andrew Chang, Peru
Jonah Han, Spain
Olivia Kivel, Japan
Oskar Kocol, Brazil
Daniel Martinez, Brazil
Aurora Sullivan, Australia
Eboni White, Sri Lanka

Megan Bernhard, Spain
Brooke Bourgeois, Scotland
Chase Buchholz, Argentina
Marisa Houlahan, Uruguay
Yasmin Lachir, Colombia
Forrest Lewis, The Gambia
Chace Shaw, South Korea

Chesley Ekelem, South Africa
Carolyn Gigot, India
Kirin Gupta, Costa Rica
Andrew Kim, India
Margarita Kostova, Russia
Jacob Luna, Spain

Francesca Del Frate, Norway
Malcolm Grayson, Japan 
Li Murphy, Thailand
Valentina Rodriguez, Canada (Northwest Territories)
Nourhan Shaaban, Senegal
Lee Ann Song, Argentina
Malte Zopfs, Brazil

Tonatiuh Liévano Beltrán, Brazil
Alice Li, Spain
Pascal Mensah, Spain
Danielle Schulkin, Israel
Christopher Stock, Morocco

Noni Carter, Guadeloupe & Martinique 
Zachary Herring, Mexico 
Lauren Xie, Indonesia

Jane D'Ambrosia, Argentina/Chile (Patagonia)
Darcie Dieman, New Zealand
Geetika Mehra, India
Naseemah Mohamed, India
Yvette Ramirez, Mexico

Ama R. Francis, Brazil 
Benjamin H. French, Botswana 
Laura Jaramillo, China 
Catherine Ntube, Peru 
Oliver D. Strand, Japan 
Lauren M. White, Argentina

Thomas J. Brennan, Tanzania 
Judith E. Fan, Peru 
Jessica C. Frisina, Honduras 
Gerald C. Tiu, China 
Adam S. Travis, Kenya 
Devon A. Youngblood, Egypt


Lauren Brants, Mexico 
Wilmarie Cidre, Chile 
Nicholas Rizzo, India 
Nora Sluzas, China 
Brittan Smith, South Africa 
Cristiana Strava, Morocco

Rosa Beltran, Mozambique 
Nira Gautam, Argentina 
Nina Kouyoumdjian, Turkey 
Adam Kundishora, Kenya 
Brittany Martin, Kenya 
Christopher Rucker, Brazil 
Jill Stockwell, Turkey 
Max Warren, Tanzania

Matthew Busch, Indonesia 
Olivia Gage, Tanzania 
Emily Hogeland, Bolivia 
Kelly Lee, Mexico 
Oludamini Ogunnaike, Mali 
Ann Riley, The Republic of Seychelles 
Amy Tao, Cambodia

Morgan Brown, India 
Maureen Connolly, Dominican Republic 
Carolyn Daly, Morocco 
Nicole Gavel, Mexico 
Justine Nagurney, New Zealand 
Francisco Perez, Senegal 
Henry Seton, South Africa 
Jennifer Wynn, Brazil

Sheila Adams, Brazil 
Grant Devine, Chile 
Mariam Eskander, Egypt 
Matthew Mahan, Peru, Bolivia 
Christine D.T.A. Tran, Cape Verde

Emily Blumberg, Mexico 
Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, Uganda 
Maribel Hernandez, France 
Elizabeth Quinn, Guatemala 
Naresh Ramarajan, Indonesia 
Benjamin Zusman, Panama

Brian J. Boyle, India 
Arianne Cohen, Cambodia 
Jennifer Leath, Tanzania 
Claire Lehmann, India 
Dominika Seidman, Mexico 
Luke Winston, Chile

Anjanette Chan Tack, India 
Dorothy Fortenberry, Haiti 
David Mihalyfy, Russia 
Ruth O'Meara-Costello, Italy 
Dan Vazquez, Mexico

Anne Durston, Brazil 
Mellody Hayes, China 
Brian Milder, Chile 
Kanu Okike, Ghana 
Renee Raphael, Ecuador

Sarun Charumilind, Zambia 
Sarah Kalloch, Uganda 
Carl "Larry" Malm, Israel, Palestinian N.A. 
Charisa Smith, Dominican Republic 
Sinead Walsh, India


Gregory David, Trinidad & Tobago 
Alberto Hazan, Morocco 
Judy Hung Liang, China 
Jeremy Tobacman, Indonesia

M. Allison Arwady, Australia 
Mehana Blaich, Zimbabwe 
Sandy S. Chung, South Korea 
Susannah Hills, Equatorial Guinea

Paul A. Foster, Chile 
Mary Hahn, Scotland 
Junne Kamihara, Kenya 
Sidhartha R. Sinha, India 
Emily A. Wang, China

Moupali Das, India 
Daniel J. Hruschka, Mongolia 
Rebecca Miksad, South Africa 
Timothy Platts-Mills, Papua-New Guinea 
Edith Replogle, Russia

Howard Axelrod, Italy 
Thomas Gavin, Guatemala, Costa Rica 
Jafi Lipson, Italy 
Anya Lukasewycz, Ukraine 
Alexis Santos, Brazil, Cuba, Italy

Breean T. Fortier (Stickgold), Russia 
David Galbraith, Kenya 
Weston Hill, Ghana

Rebecca Dillingham, Ivory Coast, Botswana 
Maureen Langloss, Costa Rica, Chile 
Serena Dutra Savage, Colombia 
Daniel Wilkinson, Mexico, Guatemala

Richard Buery, Zimbabwe, Kenya 
Rachael Burger, Zimbabwe 
Jeremy Hirsh, Costa Rica 
Teresa Marrin Nakra, India 
Gary Shenk, Russia

Brodwyn Fischer, Mexico 
Jeffrey Hobson, India 
Diana Lane, Chile 
Suzanne F. Nossel, South Africa

Curtis Chang, South Africa 
Thomas A. Chavez, Argentina, Brazil 
J. Drew Colfax, Mali 
Julie A. Reardon, Bangladesh


Scott D. Easton, Israeli/Palestine Territories 
Gallaudet Howard, Kenya 
Van Truong Le, Southeast Asia 
Michelle Webb, Canada, France, Liberia

Wayne C. Johnson, Spain 
Jacqueline M. Klopp, Kenya 
Shawn A. MacDonald, Indonesia 
Audrey H. R. River, France

Carlomagno D. Baldi, Brazil 
Elisabeth Bentley, India 
Anne E. Monius, India 
Victoria Rivera, Bolivia 
David E. Yarowsky, Nepal, India

Valerie A. Barton, Thailand 
Andrea Fastenberg, Latin 

John C. Choi, Japan 
Thomas H. R. Culhane, Borneo 
Lucy Langstaff Dinneen, Kenya 
Steven W. Hawkins, Zimbabwe

Fredric R. Beller, Thailand 
Virginia M. Young, Denmark

Lawrence M. Cohen, India 
Sonja M. Lartey, Africa 
Gerald K. LeTendre, Nepal 
Sarah. W. Macdonald, South Africa

Donald H. Gips, Sri Lanka 
Nadieszda Kizenko, Morocco 
Matthew S. Nathan, India 
Matthew Partan, Soviet Union

Debra L. W. Cohn, Mali 
Sylvester J. DiDiego, Jr., Japan 
Mark S. Sherwin, Nepal 
Paul A. Smith, Tibet

Scott E. Atherton, Israel 
Lisa C. F. Hsia, China 
Jude D. Kearney, Africa 
Thomas M. Levenson, Japan, Philippines 
Mary Ann McGrail, India


Stephanie K. Bell-Rose, Venezuela, Mexico 
Wayne H. Muraoka, Japan 
Robert S. Rubin, Egypt 
Helena V.C. Snow, Colombia

John G. Chou, Philippines, Hong Kong 
Karen Fifer Ferry, Norway 
Deval L. Patrick, Sudan, Nigeria 
Laurence J. Spagnola, Italy

Mark P. Szpak, Poland 
Vivian J. Woodard, Africa

David A. Bussard, Portugal 
Francisco L. Garcia-Rodriquez, Mexico 
Margaret C. Ross, Israel

Kim N. Hays, Sweden 
Joseph (Mike) McCune III, Sri Lanka, Botswana 
Paul R. Poston, Africa

Susan G. Cole, Greece 
Richard S. Nelson, Ecuador 
Edward M. Zwick, France

Dewey C. Hickman, Africa 
Melinda Liu, China 
Marybeth Shinn, Kenya 
Seth P. Waxman, Kenya

Christopher Y. Ma, China 
Kenneth E. Reeves, Cameroon 
David L. Westfall, Tanzania

J. Patrick Berry, India 
Earl A. Jones, Switzerland 
Charlotte Mary Ryan, Chile

Claire V. Broome, Colombia 
Kate G. Wenner, Peru 
Ernest J. Wilson III, West Africa


Alexander Keyssar, East Africa 
Frances Pritchett, India 
Wesley E. Profit, Japan 
Charles F. Sabel, Poland, Germany

Barbara J. Fields, Tanzania 
Christopher L.  Hallowell, Peru 
Jeffrey A. Lipkin, Ceylon 
William G. Sinkford, Greece

Paul Hamburg, Romania, Israel 
Xavier H. Reyes, Peru

E. Perry Link, Jr., Hong Kong

Note: Rockefeller Reflections

Many of following quotes are taken from the book, Journeys & Reflections [Nathan, M., Ed. (1990). Journeys & reflections: 25 years of the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship. Boston, MA: Venture Point Communications] and from former fellows’ mid-year reports and photo captions.

Adam Kundishora, Kenya, 2008

Adam Kundishora, Kenya, 2008
Driving us was an amazing man named Joe Gatiba Ngwiri. If kindness and goodwill could be measured as light, Joe would make the sun look like a firefly in a ballroom. Riding passenger-side, Sarune Ole Lengeny, a Maasai, and I hesitate to call him a man – perhaps an entity or a spirit guide or something like that – something that implies more importance than “man.” These two guys had facilitated all of the ICROSS projects in the Kajiado district (a massive place) dealing with the Maasai for the last 30 years! So without too much effort, you can imagine that they’ve seen it all. The suffering of the masses and the hope of their families, the dedication of the community and the joy of their children, the unstoppable epidemics, the unyielding efforts, the corruption and the good will, the disoriented visitors – they’ve seen it all. (Excerpt from mid-year report) 

Nina Kouyoumdjian, Turkey, 2008

Nina Kouyoumdjian, Turkey, 2008 
Hazal created a cultural awareness group at Sabanci, and we decided that I would recruit seven Armenian students, and she would bring seven Turkish students to a dinner where we would all meet and discuss what we wanted to get out of the group. The dinner was held at one of the only Armenian restaurants in Istanbul. It was amazing. It was incredible to see people my age, struggling with the things I had only began to witness. Each student went around and explained their reasons for attending the dinner. I was so touched that there were actually people who cared about exploring this touchy subject. (Excerpt from mid-year report) 

Oludamini Ogunnaike, Mali, 2007

Oludamini Ogunnaike, Mali, 2007 
Traditional Malian music is extremely free, because the traditional rules leave a lot of space for improvisation and inspiration, but precisely because of this freedom, the rules cannot be broken or bent without making a musical mess. It’s kind of like walking across a wide bridge, you have room to move around and explore, but you’re in trouble if you try to walk off the bridge! I’ve found that the same lesson to apply to innumerable other facets of my life, from reading to interacting with people even to eating food. By submitting to discipline and imposing limits upon myself, I become much more free than if I were to simply follow my own impulses. I hope I can apply this lesson to my daily routine once I get back to the US.  (Excerpt from mid-year report) 

Carolyn Daly, Morocco, 2006

Carolyn Daly, Morocco, 2006 
I had no idea of what I would do in Tiout before coming. I would not be joining some association with organized projects. Instead, I would be arriving at an already functioning Cooperative and trying to insert myself into it—all with hopes that I may somehow learn something about traditional medicine just by living there. On the last leg of my journey, riding to the village crammed in the taxi Kbira (the olive green Renault which serves as a form of inter city transport) with seven other people, I began to panic a bit. Yet I think to some degree it was just what I needed. (Excerpt from mid-year report)

Ruth O’Meara-Costello, Italy, 2002

Ruth O’Meara-Costello, Italy, 2002 
When I wrote my Rockefeller grant proposal, I turned to organic farming in part as an alternative to the life that I’d led for four years at Harvard, and to the career as a lawyer that I’m considering for the future. It seemed very important to me to explore not just different career paths…but also truly alternative lifestyles, different life values. In the last four months in Italy I did find what I think of still as a thoughtful and fulfilling way of life. It wasn’t the idyll that I rather naively imagined at first, but accepting the experience as it came, I learned more than I ever could have in my pre-conceived perfect technicolor landscapes.(Excerpt from mid-year report) 

Susannah Hills, Equatorial Guinea, 1998

Susannah Hills, Equatorial Guinea, 1998 
That is life in Equatorial Guinea. I left here to embark on an “experience,” and I have built a life. I have friends here, and a job…. I'm grateful for Junior’s smile, a pleasure so simple and pure, it reminds me that happiness is real. At the end of the day, I’m grateful for the ache in my back and the pain in my feet that tell me I haven’t wasted the passing hours. I’m grateful for the moon that shines, even when it’s cloudy, for I know that the people I love in my native land walk in the night by the same glowing light. And, as I leave, I thank God for my neighbor’s arms and Antonia’s tears, for I know I have found love on both sides of the world. (Excerpt from mid-year report) 

Emily Wang, China, 1996

Emily Wang, China, 1996
In these past few months, China has become real to me. I came with a simple, romantic notion of finding my heritage, and instead have begun to see this heritage of mine, for all its beauties, its misgivings, its complexities, with clearer eyes. China is no longer an abstraction, but real faces, ideas, and emotions. (Excerpt from mid-year report) 

Alexis Santos, Brazil, Cuba, Italy, 1995

Alexis Santos, Brazil, Cuba, Italy, 1995
I began the serious campaign to find an organization working with the street children of Rio. [But] what must these places have thought when a stranger, who looks Brazilian enough, bangs on the door and starts muttering something in a language so far removed from Portuguese that it must be Chinese and so understood to be saying, “I blah blah blah blah work blah blah children blah art blah blah si?” Eventually the queer expression would yield to comprehension and some sort of human communication would follow. I learned a great deal about the available social programs, about the good people that work there and their frustrations with an impossible battle, and about the dead zombie look of a child grown up on the streets and addicted to sniffing glue. (Excerpt from mid-year report)

Diana Lane, Chile, 1991

Diana Lane, Chile, 1991
I spent much of my time in the community called “Las Camisas,” doing research on patterns of firewood collection and also directing the construction of a communal fuel-efficient oven. I even spent a day as an official state census-taker, filling out forms asking “Do you have a VCR?” for people who lived without electricity or running water. Mostly, “doing” was just a pretext for “being”—for observing and learning how people work to live off the land in a region with limited rainfall and natural resources. I am grateful to all of the people who welcomed me so generously into their homes and lives. (Caption from Rockefeller 40th anniversary fellows’ photo exhibit) 

Shawn MacDonald, Indonesia, 1988

Shawn MacDonald, Indonesia, 1988 
Arriving here in Indonesia without a set plan was trying. I was weary and anxious to settle down after a long time on the road. It took two long weeks, first making sure that there was truly no way I could work at the refugee camp, then walking door to door in the Jakarta non-profit world. I received lots of confused responses due to an unfamiliarity here with the concept of volunteering, but I was determined and it seemed to have worked out…it is astounding how much there is to learn here. (Excerpt from Journeys & Reflections, p.21) 

Lucy Langstaff Dinneen, Kenya, 1985

Lucy Langstaff Dinneen, Kenya, 1985
So many things go through your head during the [fellowship] year—fear at the vulnerability of being on your own; loneliness as you become aware of the huge gaps that loom between you and the people you are meeting; new perspective and loss of perspective; confusion at contrasts between different ways of life and standards of living; awareness of your depth of cynicism and equally strong capacity for compassion. All these thoughts and impressions mingle and react with each other to make the fellowship experience what it is—as much a journey inwards as outwards. (Excerpt from Journeys & Reflections,p.41) 

Matthew Nathan, India, 1982

Matthew Nathan, India, 1982
My backpack, so carefully selected and packed, was lost by the airline and did not show up when I arrived in New Delhi at 3 a.m. I had my passport and money in a pouch around my neck. Everything else, including my painstakingly gathered list of contacts, was gone. Somnolent airline employees offered no apologies or hope, merely forms to fill out…. Yet along with my queasiness and desolation…, I began to notice—to see, hear, smell, taste and feel things were wholly new to me.  Everywhere I turned, I was offered clues to countless mysteries….I began to sense—like the tinge of wood smoke, cow dung, and incense in the air—my freedom. (Excerpt from Journeys & Reflections, p.18)

Kim Hays, Sweden, 1975

Kim Hays, Sweden, 1975 
The difficulties of trying to make my fellowship year work well are hard for me to remember now, except when I read my journal, but the difficulties of trying to make life meaningful and honorable are with me today and will probably last my lifetime. Goodness knows I don’t live my life today always being brave, appreciating beauty and other people’s company and feeling competent and proud of myself. But I know I have those skills and sometimes when I need them I am able to draw on them. (Excerpt from Journeys & Reflections, p. 48) 

Richard Nelson, Ecuador, 1974

Richard Nelson, Ecuador, 1974 
I will always remember the first birth I witnessed, in the Otavalo hospital….There was some basic medical equipment present, but it didn’t dominate the scene. And when the Indian mother’s struggle was finally over and her baby was crying and the mother and nurses were smiling—and I was crying and smiling—I felt a great joy at the wonder of fertility and birth. I am glad to say that those feelings have remained with me, more enduringly I think because of where they began. (Excerpt from Journeys & Reflections, p. 33) 

E. Perry Link, Hong Kong, 1966

E. Perry Link, Hong Kong, 1966 
My guess is that the meaning of the Fellowship might vary widely from case to case. To judge from mine, it stands as a kind of monument to the wonderful unpredictability of life. In spring of 1966 I did not foresee, much less plan, the effects my fellowship year would bring. The path it has set me upon has brought ironies and reversals, and, at different times, both exhilaration and considerable pain—but never boredom. (Excerpt from Journeys & Reflections, p. 51)


The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship: An Overview

The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship, a post-graduate, year-long experience, was founded in 1965 by the family and close friends of Michael Rockefeller ’60, who died during an expedition to study a remote agricultural community in New Guinea. Michael had a zest for exploration—for new ideas, places, and people. His sense of adventure, combined with his sensitivity and goodwill, made him an extraordinary friend to many. It was a natural choice to keep his memory alive through a fellowship that would affirm these same qualities in other young men and women. The Fellowship would enable them to seek, as Michael did, a deeper understanding of our common human experience and their part in it, through the respectful exploration of a different culture.

Over the past years, over 200 Rockefeller Fellows have traversed the globe and encountered the wonder and challenge of living and participating in communities very different from those they have known. In so doing, they have carried out the intention of the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship to provide a year of purposeful postgraduate immersion in a foreign culture for individuals at critical stages in their development who feel a compelling need for new and broadening experiences.

The Fellowship Experience

The Fellowship Experience 
The primary purpose of the Fellowship is the development of an individual's understanding of himself and his world through involvement with people of a culture not his own. It is intended that the holder of the Fellowship will use it to heighten his awareness of and sensitivity to the people of such a culture and will thereby broaden and deepen the reach of his mind and further discover and clarify the purpose for his life. His involvement with the people in the culture of his choice should be through travel, study, field work, and adventure.

The main portion of the individual's time should be spent in more intensive and more personal involvement with the people of the culture in which he is traveling or residing than normal tourist travel would entail. Also, as a general rule, the year's experience should not be primarily one of academic study in an academic environment. Scholarly study should not be pursued at or in a university or college unless it is clearly preparatory or supplementary to a major activity.

The year provided by the Fellowship should not be spent in the practice or furtherance of a professional career or deliberately used to begin work that the individual intends to make a lifetime work. The year should be planned with the idea of exploration, challenge, and new discovery.

In the course of his travel and work, each individual should engage in serious reflection upon his experiences, and it is hoped that he will become involved in a critical study of some aspect of the culture in which he is living. In this regard, working at some contribution to the arts and sciences may prove a very effective way for him to become involved in the lives of another people and in constructive thought.

The Story of Michael C. Rockefeller

The Story of Michael C. Rockefeller 
Michael had graduated from Harvard and had just finished six months in the National Guard when he went to West Irian (formerly known as Dutch New Guinea) on a Harvard Peabody Museum Expedition. The expedition, which he had helped sponsor, went in early 1961 to study an isolated agricultural society in the New Guinea highlands. At the end of the expedition, he set out on his own to study and collect art on the southern coast.

After making several preliminary journeys throughout the Asmat region, Michael set off on a major collecting trip on the evening of November 18th with a crew of native Papuans and a Dutch anthropologist, Rene Wassing. His boat was a large raft he had constructed by building a platform over two dug-out canoes, with an outboard motor for power. Michael hoped this raft would give him more independence in collecting art. Though he had used it only on the river, Michael believed the vessel was seaworthy. But when they reached the wide mouth of the Asewets River at dusk, the ocean waves capsized the raft.

Michael and Rene salvaged some of their belongings and spent the night safely on the inverted platform. The Papuans abandoned ship and swam for shore, reaching Agats, where the Dutch government station was located, later that night. Unknown to Michael and Rene, the government sent out a search boat immediately, but it probably did not go far enough before turning back. By morning, when it was light enough to see, Michael and Rene found themselves drifting far away from the coast on the strong river current. They knew there was very little chance of being picked up, since a packet boat only came along the coast once a week and planes rarely flew over the area. Not being one to wait for events to direct his actions, Michael decided to swim ashore, lashing empty fuel tanks to his back to keep him afloat.

I can imagine Michael cheerily saying good-bye to Rene, and reassuring him he would be back with a rescue crew by the next morning, at the latest. It has been estimated that the raft was twelve miles from the shore when he started to swim. A government search party found the raft and Rene that same day but they never found Michael. He disappeared, probably succumbing to dehydration and sun exposure before he ever reached the edge of the mangrove swamp. A gas tank, found by rescue workers several days later, was the only clue ever found. Despite the stories of sensationalists, I am sure Michael never reached dry land.

Michael's life was brief but intense. In spite of the tragedy, however, there is much to celebrate. Michael's cherished art collection now has a permanent home at the Metropolitan Museum. And the Fellowship has proved to be a wonderful legacy, of which Michael would have been most proud.

--Sam Putnam, Journeys and Reflections: 25 Years of the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship