Louis L. Orlin, Professor Emeritus of Ancient Near Eastern History and Literature died on September 17, 2016, at the age of ninety.
Professor Orlin was born in Bayonne, NJ, and grew up in circumstances shaped by the Great Depression. His opportunity to realize his intellectual and academic ambitions came when he enlisted in the Army Specialized Training Program and was sent to Princeton in 1943. He served in France, where he was wounded, and was awarded the awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal. He resumed his studies, and took his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan in 1949, 1950, and 1960, respectively.
Professor Orlin once wrote that he had come to the study of the ancient Middle East almost by chance. He had received wide-ranging training in European and American history, intellectual history, political theory, comparative literature, and philosophy, when George Cameron induced him to ancient Iran and Mesopotamia, giving him the opportunity to follow his quest for the “origins of human thought and activity as recorded in the earliest available records.” Professor Cameron also recruited him to the Department of Middle East Studies, where Professor Orlin taught ancient Near Eastern history and literature (Assyrian, Babylonian, Hittite) at all levels until his retirement in 1989. His study of Assyrian colonies in Anatolia, published in 1970, was a landmark in his field.
Professor Orlin was a dedicated and gifted teacher, whose accomplishments were recognized by the E. Harris Harbison Award for Distinguished Teaching of the Danforth Foundation. Earlier, he had also received the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Michigan. He continued his teaching after his retirement, leading to his latest book, Life and Thought in the Ancient Near East (2007), a testimony to his humanistic pursuit that is built on scholarly expertise but defies disciplinary restrictions because he had always, in his words, “seen the parts of the universe of knowledge as being interconnected.”
Professor Orlin took a lively interest in sports; he played tennis, loved riding on horseback, and eagerly followed all Michigan sports teams. He was an active musician, who went on international tours with the V.A. Musical Group several times, he was a gifted painter and wrote and loved poetry.
He is survived by his wife of twenty-eight years, Jenny Orlin, and four children from his first marriage.
--Gottfried Hagen, Chair, Department of Middle East Studies