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Michael Hawley, A True MIT Polymath, Dies At 5802:58
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In this 2003 photo, MIT's Michael Hawley turns a page of his book "Bhutan, A Visual Odyssey Across the Kingdom" to introduce the Himalayan country while Bhutanese boy Gyelsey Loday (R) and girl Choki Lhamo (L) look on during a preview in Tokyo. (TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images)
In this 2003 photo, MIT's Michael Hawley turns a page of his book "Bhutan, A Visual Odyssey Across the Kingdom" to introduce the Himalayan country while Bhutanese boy Gyelsey Loday (R) and girl Choki Lhamo (L) look on during a preview in Tokyo. (TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Hawley was an educator. He was a professor at the MIT Media Lab.

And he was a life-long learner. He had a child-like wonder about the mysteries of the universe.

And he was a master of digital media and its applications in all corners and cultures around the world.

And he helped lead one of the first scientific expeditions to Mt. Everest.

And he created a picture book of Bhutan. Guinness deemed it the largest book ever published — almost as big as a ping-pong table.

He accomplishments seemed too vast for one life. Now, that life has been cut short. Hawley died of colon cancer Wednesday at his home in Cambridge. He was 58.

Hawley would tell you, though, that his greatest accomplishment of all came late in life. He and his wife Nina You had a child after a decade of trying. Tycho was born two-and-a-half years ago.

Their time together was blissful, but short. Months after Tycho was born, Hawley was diagnosed with cancer.

Last October, Michael Hawley spoke at the Business Innovation Factory summit in Providence.

"This cosmic twist of having the baby of our dreams and then having this diagnosis has made me realize that, in fact, giving this talk — which I have not given before, kind of obviously — has made me appreciate that just as my body has been through the wars, surgery and chemo and all the rest, and 60 pounds less of me ... emotionally and psychically, I'm still pretty beaten up too," he said. "And it's going to take time for those things to come back. And I think the best way to look at these moments in life is that they're a gift, because they give you empathy. They let you know about things that are more important than you realized.

"That you relate to people in ways that matter the most."

Michael Hawley leaves behind his wife and son.

This segment aired on June 25, 2020.

Lisa Mullins Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Lisa Mullins is the voice of WBUR’s All Things Considered. She anchors the program, conducts interviews and reports from the field.

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