Faculty profile–Mary Hanneman

Students often think of professors as people with no life outside of the classroom, living only to teach—or possibly to compose scores of journal articles. However, for Mary Hanneman, Associate Professor in PPPA and Acting Director of the Asia Pacific Center, there are other scores that hold her interest.

Hanneman’s interest in East Asia began during her childhood experiences as the daughter of a Lutheran missionary in Tokyo where she lived for 3 ½ years, attending grades K-2. Even after returning to the States, she continued to puHanneman with violarsue her interest in Asia; during her high school, she studied Japanese — an unusual language to study in those days. She continued to study Japanese while earning her BA in East Asian Studies at WWU. After receiving her MA (also in East Asian Studies) from Yale, she returned home to Washington to pursue her PhD in Japanese History at UW Seattle, before finally settling here at UW Tacoma where she taught Asian History.

It was while living in Tokyo, though, that she discovered her second passion in life: music. Hanneman began playing the violin at age six before moving to the viola a few years later. While at WWU, she minored in music; while working on her Masters degree she joined the orchestra at Yale, and during Ph.D. work at the UW, she played in a string quartet. After that, she gave up music until about 10 years ago; when both of her parents died, she found that music gave her a way to deal with grief. “Playing got me into a different mental and emotional space,” she remembered.  Hanneman currently is a member of the Olympia Symphony.  The last concert of the 2013-14 season included a presentation of Brahms Symphony #2—a piece that she played years ago.  Remarking on the idea of music and muscle memory, she commented, “It’s amazing how much of it was just under my fingers.”

This summer Hanneman will be taking a group of 16 students on a study abroad trip to China. Hanneman can’t wait – but she’ll miss her viola while she’s away.