Obituary: Donald Gjertson, Retired Professor of Asian Studies

Donald Gjertson
Donald Gjertson

Donald Edward Gjertson, 72, of Hadley, retired professor of Asian studies and former assistant dean for advising, died Sept. 2.

Born April 30, 1945, he grew up in Moses Lake, Washington, and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1965, serving until 1968 and attaining the rank of sergeant. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1970 and received a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1975. 

He joined UMass Amherst in 1975 as assistant professor of Asian Studies, serving as department chair from 1984-89. He became a full professor in the department of Asian languages and literatures, which became the department of languages, literatures and cultures. He retired in 2011 as professor and assistant dean for advising.

Also, in 1984 he served as associate professor at Sixum Normal University in China, and in 1991 he was appointed assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Information and Advising Center (CASIAC).

An avid hiker and backpacker, he was proud to have climbed Mount Fuji in Japan, Jade Mountain in Taiwan, Mount Whitney in California, Mount Rainier in Washington and all the high peaks of the Adirondacks, Catskills and White Mountains. 

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Misako, and his two sons, Carl and wife Erica of Simsbury, Connecticut, and Niels of San Francisco, California.

Memorial donations are suggested to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (