Christian 18

Susan Han Marsh

August 6, 2020



Susan Su-chin Han Marsh (Blackburn) passed away peacefully at home in Cambridge, MA with her family by her side, on August 6 at age 93. Born in Shanghai, China, Susan was the eldest of seven children. After earning a B.A. in government from St. John’s University, Shanghai, Susan left China in September 1948 for graduate studies in the U.S. She received her M.Ed. from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in 1949 and her PhD in political science from the University of Chicago in 1955. From 1956 to 1961 she was associated with the Modern China Project at Columbia University, contributing 39 biographies to the Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Howard Boorman, ed.


Throughout her career, Susan taught or held research associateships at Stanford University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Richmond College (London), and Brown University. She rose to full professor and chairman of the Political Science Department at Providence College, where she taught for seventeen years until retirement in 1994 as Professor Emeritus. Susan co-edited China in the Era of Deng Xiaoping: A Decade of Reform with Ying-Mao Kau, and was collaborating editor of The Writings of Chairman Mao Tse-tung: 1949-1976. She wrote the textbook Years of Upheaval: Revolution in Modern China, and was a contributor to The Chinese and The Japanese: Essays in Political and Cultural Interaction, edited by A. Iriye. Susan was active in the Providence Council on Foreign Relations, the World Affairs Council of R.I., and the R.I. Council for the Humanities. She was married for 23 years to sociology professor Robert M. Marsh, with whom she had three children, and was instrumental in conducting research for his first book, The Mandarins: The Circulation of Elites in China 1600-1900.


When the U.S. and China normalized relations in 1978, Susan returned to Shanghai for the first time in three decades. Over subsequent years, she helped bring numerous family members to America to study and work.


Susan met her second husband, George T. Blackburn of East Greenwich, R.I. in 1987  when he joined one of the summer tours she led around China. They shared fifteen wonderful years together, one of their favorites being a sabbatical in London, with side trips around Europe, where George had served in WWII. They enjoyed spending every February in Aruba. Susan passed away on the thirty-second anniversary of their wedding.


For the past dozen years, Susan was a resident of the North Hill retirement community in Needham, MA, where she made many close friends and enjoyed knitting, gardening, Wii bowling and watercolor painting.


Susan had a beautiful smile and a warm and gracious manner. She held herself and her family to a high standard. Always up for an adventure, she was a loving and devoted wife, mother and grandmother.


She is survived by her children Eleanor Marsh of Cambridge, MA, Christopher Marsh of Brookline, MA and Diana Marsh of Somerville, MA; and stepchildren Jean Blackburn of Providence, RI and John Blackburn of Colorado Springs, CO.


She leaves two granddaughters, Cordelia Sanborn-Marsh and Vivian Breedlove, and three step-grandchildren: Jasmine Reed, Brianna Blackburn and Caleb Blackburn. She is also survived by three siblings and many nieces and nephews.


Susan's funeral will be held on Saturday, September 5 at 11 am at The Parish of the Good Shepherd in Newton, MA. The service is limited to a small group of family and close friends due to covid concerns, but will also be live-streamed on the church's website. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations in Susan’s memory may be made to the “Angels Ascending and Descending” accessibility initiative at her church (

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