Although they had never seen the costume before, Northwestern University's students did not need to look twice to identify the figure that stalked across their campus last week, wearing an enormous Chinese otter fur cap, a great Chinese otter coat and Chinese "alley cat" fur gloves. Only one man on any U. S. campus would dress like that. Exclaiming "Bill McGovern is back," Northwestern's delighted students rushed to register for his courses, its delighted professors whisked him off to the University Club to hear his newest adventures.
Slender, bushy-haired William Montgomery McGovern, 40, Northwestern's famed professor of political science, had brought back from the Orient the research to complete a book, The Empires of Central Asia, on which he has been working seven years and whose first volume will be published in April. He was also primed with new learning for his courses on Asia.
But he brought back one thing he had not expected when he set out with his wife for Tokyo eight months agothe story of a war. Arriving in Japan just in time for the excitement, Bill McGovern lost no time in becoming embroiled in it. He went first to Manchukuo, and while he was being toasted in champagne by Japanese officials in Hsinking, his wifewas arrested snapping pictures in the streets.
She fumed in jail for four hours before her husband got her out. They started for Peiping with Robert Karl Reischauer, Princeton lecturer, but Reischauer decided Shanghai would be safer. Two weeks later he was killed by a bomb in the International Settlement (TIME, Aug. 23).
The McGoverns, finding Peiping too tame, frequented the fighting front. In one expedition they made with six newspaper correspondents, the five men and three women spent a sleepless night in one bed while dogs devouring Chinese corpses howled outside their hut. When he returned to Evanston, Bill McGovern predicted Japan would conquer and control all China within two years.
One of the really picturesque personalities in U. S. education, Bill McGovern inherited his wanderlust from his father, an army officer, and his mother. Born in Manhattan, he started to travel when he was six weeks old. His mother once took him to Mexico just to see a revolution. At 16 he studied in a monastery in Kyoto, Japan, became a Buddhist priest.
He went to Oxford University for more education in 1917 and worked his way through by teaching Chinese at the University of London. He arrived in Chicago as assistant curator of anthropology of the FUd Museum in 1927, joined the faculty of Northwestern two years later.
But in the meantime he had explored the Amazon, dug up Inca remains in Peru, penetrated the Forbidden City of Lhasa in Tibet.