Michael Ravitch, Age 61, Was Pioneering Educator

Michael Ravitch, 61, of West Tisbury and Evanston, Ill., died unexpectedly but peacefully at his Evanston home on Feb. 27. Although he was severely disabled by a stroke six and a half years ago, during the last year Mike had made a courageous and remarkable recovery, regaining his formidable intellect, his eloquence and his physical strength and capitalizing on his trademark sense of humor, which had never deserted him.

Mike first came to the Vineyard with his family in the summer of 1962 after graduating from Park School in Baltimore in 1961. Two summers in the Burt Barnhouse on Look's Pond left all the Ravitches hooked on the Vineyard. Their search for a suitable corner of paradise ended when Mike and his father climbed the fire tower and spotted Old House Pond. As they walked the available land with Fred Fisher, they could hardly make their way through the thick overgrowth. Mike scaled a tree to confirm that the land was on the pond, and thus began the family's saga behind Nip 'n' Tuck Farm.

With the rest of the Ravitch-Schwentker clan, Mike was on-Island when Hurricane Bob hit, leaving the family and friends trapped deep in the woods with scores of trees lying across their dirt road. Mike, brother in law Ned Schwentker, nephew Mark Schwentker and their guest Tim Tymon spent hours chainsawing their way to freedom.

Mike enjoyed wielding an axe and took great pleasure in splitting logs for the family fireplace, so it is no surprise that he was a dedicated fan of the Woodsmen's Contest at the Agricultural Fair every summer. In fact, he enjoyed every aspect of the fair, and he was a loyal attendee at the annual horse pull there from the time Fred Fisher first introduced it. A particular delight for Mike was his serendipitous presence on the Vineyard during the barn-raising of the new Agricultural Hall, and he was thrilled and proud to be a participant.

The Vineyard is home to many of the friends and neighbors Mike held near to his heart. In the last year, he was gratified to reestablish many friendships there. Following his recent recovery, he had become active in the management of the family's rental properties behind Nip 'n' Tuck Farm and was again enjoying vacations there with his family.

Born in 1943 in Baltimore, Md., Mike received a bachelor of arts degree from Franklin and Marshall College in 1966 and earned a master of arts degree in educational psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Stanford University in 1977.

He taught medical education at the University of Rochester (NY) and Michigan State University before joining the faculty of Northwestern University in 1984 as director of the office of medical education. A leading proponent of problem-based learning, Mike introduced this interactive approach to the Northwestern Medical School curriculum. He also taught as an associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. He was a dynamic professor, caring colleague and passionate advocate for progressive curricula. He inspired and brightened the lives of students, faculty and staff alike. His other academic pursuits focused on medical decision-making, and he was a co-founder and past president of the Society of Directors of Research in Medical Education.

On medical leave from Northwestern University after his stroke, Mike dedicated himself to his community. A member of the board of Evanston's Hogeye Folk Music Society, he helped bring a number of talented folksingers to perform there. He also mentored recovering stroke survivors and volunteered with voter registration. At the Unitarian Church of Evanston, he was a member of the book club and helped with the yearly rummage sale.

Mike loved a good joke (and many a bad one) and was the editor and chief joke supplier for two online joke subscription lists. Recognizing the power of the Internet, he also began a political action e-mail list to promote political change on the national and local level. His sense of humor, grit and joy in life will be greatly missed by his wife, Myrnice; his daughters, Lara and Katie; sisters Nancy Schwentker and Binnie Ravitch; two nieces, three nephews, three great-nieces, two great-nephews and countless friends and admirers.

Tax-deductible donations may be made to the Michael M. Ravitch Invited Lecture Series in Rehabilitative Medicine, c/o Office of Medical Education, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Ward 3-130, 303 East Chicago avenue, Chicago, IL 60611. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on May 15 at the Unitarian Church of Evanston.