Heartbreak as MIT CIS executive director John Tirman dies aged 72 following a cardiac arrest

Heartbreak as MIT CIS executive director John Tirman dies aged 72 following a cardiac arrest. Image: MIT CIS/Twitter

TRIBUTES started to flood social media on Monday, August 22 after the death of MIT’s John Tirman following a cardiac arrest was announced.

John Tirman died on the morning of Friday, August 19 after suffering cardiac arrest. His death was announced by the MIT centre for international studies, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA).

“The Centre shares with deep sadness that our valued colleague and dear friend, John Tirman, passed away on the morning of August 19, 2022, after suffering cardiac arrest,” the centre wrote on Monday, August 22.

Tirman had served as the executive director of and principal research scientist at the MIT Centre for International Studies (CIS) since 2004.

According to the centre, Tirman “spearheaded several projects on US-Iran relations, and convened conferences and published on the regional dimension of the Iraq War, the role of terrorism in upsetting diplomatic relations, and the challenges of political instability in the Gulf.

“He also wrote extensively on the human costs of war to civilian populations in war zones and about forced migration.”

People paid tribute to the popular research scientist following the announcement of his death.

Richard Samuels, director of CIS and Ford International Professor of Political Science, said: “John was an exceptionally able and reliable partner in the leadership of CIS.

“Apart from managing a large swath of administrative responsibilities, he sustained a steady and prolific agenda of research and publishing.

“The Centre and the larger intellectual community benefitted immeasurably from John’s commitment to exploring the intersection of human security and international affairs—what he referred to as ‘the consequences of war for the innocent people caught up in conflict.’

“What was there not to admire in this fine public intellectual?”

Kenneth Oye, director of the CIS Program on Emerging Technologies and professor of political science, said: “John was a good friend, capable administrator and fine scholar.

“Most significantly, he was the conscience of our Center, with an intense commitment to human rights, justice and truth. John walked the walk with hard-headed assessments of the civilian costs of war.

“John supported those who had the guts to reach across lines of ethnic and religious conflict. John brought new scholarship to CIS by inviting senior practitioners to MIT through the Robert E Wilhelm Fellowship Program.

“John fostered reporting on and by people in the front lines through his work with the Institute for War Peace Reporting. He will be sorely missed.”

Elizabeth Wood, MIT professor of history and co-director of the MIT-Eurasia Program, said: “For women faculty in CIS like me, his support was particularly critical—he cared deeply that everyone was at the table and had a voice.

“He had an outsized influence in making the Centre an outstanding place for talk that led to new thinking, for talk that meant people cared deeply about their ideas and how they affected the world as a whole.”
 
Anat Biletzki, a CIS research affiliate and co-founding director with Tirman of the Center’s Human Rights and Technology Program, said, “working with John on the Human Rights and Technology program meant putting together MIT’s strengths in technology (and amazing students centered on technology) with the call for morality that must never be ignored, especially in technology.

“The strength of that combination received, in John’s hands, a focus of modest excellence that we must continue to uphold in his memory.  I think of him as the paradigm of Hannah Arendt’s concept of ‘radical goodness.'”

On Twitter, MIT wrote: “John Tirman, CIS executive director and scholar, dies at 72. An expert on US-Iran relations and human security, John was a thoughtful and prolific—yet always modest—colleague and friend.”

Stephan Walt wrote: “Shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing of MIT’s John Tirman. His book THE DEATHS OF OTHERS is a classic and he was a deeply principled scholar I admired greatly.”

“I am truly sorry to hear about the passing of Dr John Tirman. He supervised my research visit at @MIT_CIS. A prolific scholar, but more importantly he was a very nice person. He always made me feel supported and cared for. I feel lucky to have worked with him. RIP John 💐” said Cagla Luleci.

John Glaser wrote: “Sad to hear. His book The Deaths of Others is well worth the read.”

“John was a wonderful man and a brave scholar. I was lucky to know and work with him over many years. So saddened by this news,” Peter Krause wrote on Twitter.

Huss Banai wrote: “The last three days have been very hard. I lost a dear friend, mentor, and colleague – and all of us have lost a caring force for good in the world.”

Tirman coauthored and edited more than fifteen books on international affairs, including, most recently, “Republics of Myth: National Narratives and the US-Iran Conflict” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022), “Dream Chasers: Immigration and the American Backlash” (MIT Press, 2015) and “The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars” (Oxford University Press, 2011). 
 
Earlier work included: “Women, Migration, and Conflict: Breaking a Deadly Cycle” (Springer, 2009); a special post-9/11 series jointly organized by The New Press and the Social Science Research Council, “The Maze of Fear: Security and Migration After 9/11;” “The Fallacy of Star Wars” (1984), the first important critique of strategic defence; and “Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America’s Arms Trade” (1997).
 
In addition, he published more than 100 articles in periodicals such as The Nation, Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire, Wall Street Journal, and Boston Review.


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Written by

Matthew Roscoe

Originally from the UK, Matthew is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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