STOLINE, Michael R.
Age 82, passed away at Rose Arbor Hospice Residence in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Sept.18, 2022, Michael “Mike” Ross Stoline was born in Jefferson, Iowa on Sept. 17, 1940. He lived on a 160-acre farm outside of Jefferson with his parents, Paul and Eva, and his younger brother Roger. Mike enjoyed working on the farm with his parents and brother, especially during the haying season. Electrification of the farm in 1947 was a memorable and transforming event; it ended the era of farming horsepower, providing a well-deserved retirement for their horses, Nellie and Trixie. From then on, tractors were used exclusively in Stoline farming operations.
During his high school freshman algebra class Mike discovered both passion and talent for mathematics. This awakening would eventually lead to his 44-year long professional career of teaching statistics. His numerous high school interests included playing the clarinet, participating in the Hardin (Township) Happy Hustlers 4-H agriculture club, and co-editing the school newspaper –The Scoop– with a special friend named Marie Thompson (more on them later). Mike found his sport in his senior year when he went out for the track and field team. He excelled in sprinting and the long jump, becoming the 1958 Class C state indoor long jump champion in addition to several state-level sprinting finishes– 2nd in the indoor 50-yd dash, 2nd in the outdoor 220-yd dash and 3rd in the outdoor 100-yd dash. He was president of the Greene County 4-H Club in his senior year.
Mike lived on the family farm until his graduation from Grand Junction High School in 1958. With his love of farming, yet awareness of the social upheaval of the times, he was torn between carrying on the family farm vs. going to college. He also loved music and considered becoming a music major. After reaching a decision, that fall he entered Iowa State University in Ames, joining the exodus of young people from Iowa farms. He settled on a major in political sciences, wanting to make a difference in the world by working at the United Nations or maybe in political life.
Despite his varied interests and dreams, in his sophomore year Mike’s love for Marie Thompson steered big life decisions. They had been an item off and on since their first date as 15-year olds on May 5, 1955 (5-5-55)–a magical day for both of them. After high school, Marie matriculated as a freshman at University of Iowa in Iowa City. By sophomore year they knew they wanted to be together. Mike transferred to University of Iowa where during his sophomore year in the fall of 1959 he played in the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band.
Mike and Marie were married on Oct. 8, 1960 at the start of their junior years. They soon discovered that they were going to be parents. Mike immediately realized that he needed to decide how he was going to support a growing family. He fell back on a known strength and love, changing from a public service path to become a math major in his junior year. Their first child, Anne Marie, arrived in 1961.
Mike graduated from U of I in 1967 with a PhD in statistics. By that time the family had grown with the addition of Amy Michelle in 1962, Benjamin Michael in 1964 and Carrie Elizabeth in 1966. After graduation Mike aspired to teach university-level statistics and hoped to do so in California. However, no academic openings were available there in 1967 because of a budget freeze. He was advised to teach somewhere else for the year and reapply the following year when the hiring freeze would be lifted.
Mike accepted his first job offer for a position teaching Statistics at Western Michigan University (WMU). In August 1967, he moved the family from their humble, married student housing home in a former army barracks in Iowa City, to a wonderful home on Glenwood Drive in Kalamazoo. Mike and Marie immediately fell in love with Kalamazoo. They decided to put roots down there, and not apply for a position in California in 1968. Mike became a full professor at WMU in the early 1970s. (Whether fact or lore remains in question, but Marie proudly reported that Mike was the youngest person to attain full professorship in WMU history.)
In 1975, Mike accepted an invitation to do research at the University of California at Berkeley. He took the family along for a wonderful 6-month sabbatical. The family still laughs over some of the experiences they shared while exploring the beautiful landmarks and natural settings California offers. He was proud that their adventure helped to ignite his kids’ love for travel and exploration.
One project during his sabbatical year included a conversation with biostatisticians at the Upjohn Company, headquartered in Kalamazoo, about what they would like included in a graduate-level biostatistics program. From their conversation Mike developed a new graduate program in biostatistics at WMU. It was approved in 1976 with significant assistance from many of the 70 statisticians at neighboring Upjohn. Mike took great pride in teaching biostatistics to his graduate students whom he knew would most likely be highly employable, doing good work in medication development in the pharmaceutical industry.
Mike published statistical research in the area of multiple comparisons. One highlight was an invitation to be principal speaker on this subject at Princeton University in 1978. Around that time Mike also was asked by the Michigan Court of Appeals to assess the racial composition of circuit court jury trials in Michigan, an analysis they requested several times over the years. His investigation found that in many cases Black defendants faced nearly all-White juries.
Mike’s local reputation led to an invitation to join the large-scale analysis of the Love Canal environmental disaster in Niagara Falls, NY, which began in 1978. He was appointed to a national board of scientific experts charged with determining habitability criteria, to determine if families could live safely near the contaminated dumpsite. Between 1984 and 1989 he served on this board and other Love Canal committees. He developed a public talk about this experience entitled, “Love Canal, an American Environmental Case Study,” which he gave to many civic and scientific audiences both at home and abroad. Presenting his talk to the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1990 was one of the highlights of his career.
After Love Canal, Mike became involved with local environmental studies including analysis of toxic contamination at the closed KL Landfill in Oshtemo Township. His analyses were used in several local court cases. His experience in the real world of environmental contamination strengthened his teaching of the environmental courses he offered to WMU graduate students.
Mike always had a passion for teaching and believed entering a classroom was like “jumping on stage.” When he started teaching in the 1970s, faculty dressed up for the classroom and Mike continued the tradition while many fellow faculty members came to dress more casually later that decade. At his retirement in 2011 Mike was warmly roasted by his students for being one of the last professors to wear a tie and sport coat to teach. He gifted dozens of those short and wide ties to his students that night.
In addition to his prolific academic work, Mike found time for many other interests. He served a two-year term in 1971-1972 on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. After he was defeated for re-election he ended his goal of becoming a career politician while remaining a passionate, life-long Democrat.
Mike loved playing music throughout his life. He taught himself to play folk guitar in the late 1960s. He and some friends formed the band Just Friends that performed folk music at local events. Mike loved the sound of the upright bass and taught himself by playing along with recorded music. He played bass in the Sampler Band with musical friends. He later formed the Heartland Band which performed bluegrass and popular music at local events from 1994 to 2007. At the end of his Heartland musical career he played bass in the Hoot Owls group at many social gatherings. The Hoot Owls were popular at summer farmers’ markets and local nursing homes—Mike remained “a Hoot Owler” at the time of his death.
By 1984 Mike and Marie’s four children had all graduated from Loy Norrix High School, heading off to college, mortuary school, or the army. At that time Marie owned a horse named Kozy whom she boarded over time in several stables in the Kalamazoo area. Once the children graduated and left home, Marie and Mike bought a 30-acre horse farm in Texas Township which included pastures, a stable, acres of woodland and a swimming pool. They moved there with Kozy in 1987. Mike soon acquired his own horse Sedia to join Kozy. One of the greatest pleasures for Mike and Marie was taking horseback rides in the woods and neighboring undeveloped areas. The new place soon had a name: Heartland. Mike and Marie frequently entertained at Heartland with family and friends, hosting picnics, horseback rides and swimming parties. Marie also acquired five llamas and Heartland soon became known as a llama farm. Mike really enjoyed putting on his farm clothes to hay the horses, clear brush, open up new riding trails and building pasture fences. At Heartland he was able to return to his farm boy roots.
Mike and Marie enjoyed travel, especially to Europe. On one memorable, scary trip their Kalamazoo tour group arrived in Kiev, Ukraine three days after the Chernobyl nuclear explosion on April 26, 1986 (Chernobyl is about 40 miles outside of Kiev). After their visit the group was able to leave Russia safely but had been contaminated by the explosion. Mike and Marie discovered on arrival at home that they both had mild radiation exposure and many of their belongings had to be discarded because of it.
After this visit Mike and Marie were deeply concerned about living conditions in Russia and the welfare of the Russian people. They joined with other Kalamazoo-area residents who wanted to build personal and cultural relationships with Russians and to provide humanitarian aid; they focused on sharing Kalamazoo’s ample medical supplies with their not-so-fortunate friends in Russia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kalamazoo-Pushkin Partnership was born. Several large shipments of medicine, food and clothing were shepherded by the
Kalamazoo group to their new friends in Pushkin, the last in 1995. Ignoring the Cold War between their countries, lasting relationships—even a marriage—developed between Russians and Kalamazoo citizens through the Partnership. In 1996, Mike and Marie hosted the first Russian Festival at Heartland, attended by several hundred people. Subsequent annual Russian Festivals were held in larger venues, the last in 2017, after which Mike remained active for years in the local KCRA (Kalamazoo Russian Cultural Association).
Fulfilling another of their dreams, Mike and Marie were able to take five grandchildren on individual trips to Europe once they were 14 or 15 years old. Paris was a popular destination, in addition to Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Bergen, Cinque Terre, Florence, London, Munich, Salzburg and Venice. Mike and Marie hoped that these trips would instill a love of travel in their grandchildren that they would one day pass along to their own grandchildren. Marie lived at Heartland for 25 years, until her death in 2012. Mike took two more grandchildren on European trips in 2013 and 2018.
Mike left Heartland in November 2014, moving to a home in Oshtemo Township with Janice Lakers, a wonderful lady. Janice and Mike traveled extensively in Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and other scenic areas in the US. In late 2018, Janice and Mike moved into a condominium on Autumn Crest Lane in Kalamazoo with Janice’s dear companions, her cats Vincent and Lucy. Janice and Mike enjoyed hosting international visitors through the local Colleagues International Program. Their guests included visitors from Germany, Russia and Iraq. Janice and Mike also enjoyed playing music with friends and at special fundraiser events. They were active in a book club and a film discussion group. They were married on Aug 1, 2020 in the midst of the 2020 Pandemic.
Mike is survived by his wife Janice, four children, eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter born on Sept. 5, 2022: Anne Stoline-Litwin MD (Steven, DDS) in Perryville MD whose children are Elliott (Colorado Springs) and Madeline; Amy Harrington (Timothy) of Kalamazoo; Benjamin (Tracy) in Hastings MI whose children are Shanna Kenny (Birr, Ireland), Monica Messick (Jacob) in Richmond, VA, Kristina in Arlington, VA and Jennifer at home; and Carrie Olson (Stanley) in Waldorf, MD with children Stanley and Sydney. In addition to his wife and children, Mike is survived by his brother Roger (Sharon).
A memorial service to celebrate Mike’s life will be held on Sunday, October 23, 2022. Please text 269-254-6741 for more information and to RSVP. Friends and family may share a condolence message online at www.joldersma-klein.com.