FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 16, 2004
Tsunami hits during MUW professor's visit to Thailand
By Mark Huerkamp
MUW Office of Public Affairs Intern
COLUMBUS, Miss. -- The facts did not hit Robert Manning, an art and
graphic design professor at Mississippi University for Women, until he
was on his way home to the United States from Thailand, one of the
countries struck by the Dec. 26 tsunami.
The headline in the New York Times article read by a fellow passenger
stated a tidal wave struck the Pacific Islands and an estimated 50,000
were dead. While on ground, Manning was told that an earthquake
occurred, however nothing seemed extraordinary about it. He soon found
out how fortunate he really was.
Manning was in Thailand visiting and filling out paperwork for the
adoption of his niece, Ginger, a 4-year-old Thai girl. He was staying
with his wife’s family. He had been to Thailand before, but never south
of Bangkok where the tsunami struck. He tried to make arrangements to
tour the southern area of the country, but the expedition was too
lengthy and with a nearing flight departure, his trip to Phukett was
canceled on the Saturday before the Sunday of the tsunami.
“We were staying in Udon Thani, a city about 1000 miles northeast of
Phukett, when the tsunami hit where we might have been. At that time, it
occurred to me that Lumjai (his sister-in-law) lived and worked south of
Phukett, and because she came up north to see me, she avoided the
Manning did not know about the devastation of the tsunami until Sunday
night because there was no television where he was staying.
Lumjai told him there was an earthquake where she lived and that a lot
of people died. Manning thought perhaps a couple thousand people were
involved. He didn't realize how big it was until he got on the plane
Wednesday morning and saw everyone reading the newspapers. "Fifty
thousand people killed and I didn't realized what happened," Manning
said. "I don't know; call it fate."
Manning has spent a considerable part of his life traveling, teaching
and working as a designer. After a divorce when he was 48, he contracted
wanderlust and began to tour the globe. He has seen
Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, Poland, France and the British Isles,
finally stopping in New Zealand where he taught at the Wanganui School
of Design and practiced his craft of graphic design.
He met his Thai wife Praphai, in New Zealand, and they were married in
Thailand but New Zealand law wouldn't permit her full citizenship.
Manning was forced to return to his home country, the United States,
where his new wife would be considered as a full citizen. He applied for
a position as art and design instructor at MUW and was accepted.
Manning has an undergraduate degree from the Art Institute of Chicago,
and a Master's from the Institute of Design (the former Chicago
He was trained in part in design by the head graphic designer for the
famous architectural firm I.M. Pei. When his mentor left the Institute,
Manning was recommended as a replacement for the position and he
accepted it. Originally, Manning sought to become a portrait painter,
but resided with training in education and graphic design.
After leaving the Institute, he joined the very prestigious firm Unimark
International, at one point, the world's largest design company. He
recalled an entire office in Detroit devoted wholly to the client Ford
Motor Company. JC Penney was also a large client.
As for his 4-year-old niece, Manning hopes Ginger will be here soon and
with due concern.
He said the south of Thailand is in dire conditions, which pose major
concerns for children's safety and development.