Michael Milo Stanisic, warmly called “Doc” by many, was born in Lafayette, Indiana, to parents Milomir and Miroslava “Mira” Stanisic. He was the second eldest of five siblings and a first-generation American, with his parents having immigrated from Serbia following World War II. He spent his childhood between Chicago, IL, and West Lafayette, IN, becoming a Chicagoan “triple Boilermaker” once he completed all of his higher education at Purdue University. Mike eventually made his life in South Bend, IN, after securing his beloved job at the University of Notre Dame.
Mike was a passionate teacher who served as a Professor at Notre Dame since 1988. He followed in his father’s footsteps, pursuing his Ph.D. in the field of Engineering. Mike’s specialty was Mechanical Engineering, born out of a love for mechanisms and machines, starting at a young age with a love of automobile engines. This was not a path born out of obligation, but instead one of true passion and enthusiasm for the field. “Math is God” was a favorite direct quote of his and, while he was a deeply Christian man, he was also a zealous Engineer. He loved teaching, but especially mentoring students in his office hours and teaching in the Notre Dame Study Abroad programs. He provided leadership for Senior Design, the Mini Baja program, and robotics football. Mike’s children were surprised when they learned that he received both the Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Dockweiler Award for Excellence in Advising in the same cycle, just last year, accomplishments he humbly kept to himself. As it turns out, he was also an inaugural recipient of the Joyce Award in 2001. These accomplishments he considered as an honor, never to boast or report, and served as a symbol of the integrity he had for his craft. Mike was blessed to have a job he believed fulfilled his life’s purpose, frequently declaring he “has the best job in the world!” He wrote textbooks that advanced his field of study, and was a founding member of the International Symposium on Advances in Robot Kinematics (ARK). He was close with his Notre Dame and Engineering colleagues, who were like family to him over the years.
Mike was an avid gardener, most notably demonstrated by his love to cultivate delicious tomatoes that he time and again shared throughout the harvesting season. He was frequently found tending to his house, a home lovingly maintained as an admirer of Arts and Crafts style architecture. He was a cycling enthusiast, only riding fixed speed bikes even during inclement weather, and was often spotted by friends and neighbors who would then stop for a quick visit to share a story or laugh. Mike’s antique cars were the envy of many as he loved to zip around South Bend in his gleaming ‘67 Malibu Chevelle and ‘68 Triumph TR 250. Maintaining his cars was as much a lifestyle as a hobby, which he enjoyed with his fellow gearhead friends.
Mike’s love for cooking was expressed by his many dinner parties, roasts, and charity work serving meals monthly for Hope Ministries. He was renowned for fermenting his own sauerkraut every winter, and surprised the nostrils of many when he encouraged unsuspecting guests to take a whiff of his most recent batch. He loved to prepare dishes from his Serbian and Chicago roots, making all meals from scratch and selectively choosing ingredients that met his standards (feta cheese must be from sheep’s milk and packaged in brine; American cheese must be ultra-deluxe). His homemade pizzas were better than professional, his Italian Beefs rivaled Al’s, and his hog roasts were legendary. Mike often reminded his children of how much they would miss his cooking one day, and with no surprise he was right!
Among his passions was a lifelong love of music, and he never declined a concert invitation if he could help it. During a recent stint teaching abroad in London, he was known to spend much of his free time at a dodgy club on the outskirts of the city known as The Windmill. To Mike, the grittier the better, and this dingy club became a happy place for him. He loved Thalia Hall in Chicago where he attended dozens of concerts over the years. He was a rock and roll guy, with Pink Floyd and John Prine topping his list of all-time favorites. But he was open to many styles of music and enjoyed joining loved ones for concerts and trading new music finds with friends. From Bob Marley to The Hold Steady to Sierra Ferrell, he loved most everything aside from Disco, Pop, and “stupid love songs,” which he vehemently hated.
Mike was a devout follower of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and served several terms as President of Saints Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Church. He developed numerous deep friendships in his church community, who were like family to him, and avidly participated in events like Serb Fest, remaining a fixture of the community since his move to South Bend. He possessed a strong faith, which he and his fellow parishioners spread through their church events and charitable outreach efforts. The friendship and faith that he shared with his family at Saints Peter and Paul were fundamental to his life.
While he had many loves, at the top of the list were his three daughters, Lauren, Emily, and Olivia. Affectionately referred to as LEO, he would do anything for his daughters and spent as much spare time as he could visiting them. They remained in constant communication, especially through his frequent emails that often included an unsolicited ‘hot take’ or Wordle score. He insisted on lending his support to their home improvement projects while unconvincingly pretending it was a begrudging duty. During visits, you could find them in the kitchen as he didn’t believe in recipes but instead practiced experiential culinary learning. Along with their partners, Mike was known to track their every move through their shared Google locations, but even more so he loved to explore the world along with them through travel. They had a surplus of adventures together, big and small, each a treasured gift. The girls were truly his sun, moon, and stars, and he was proud to have them not only as daughters but also as friends with whom he shared this life. This was a sentiment he made sure they felt at any opportunity that presented, even in death, when discovering notes he knew they would ultimately find.
Mike was known for being eccentric, and endearingly so, like a grizzly bear but with a teddy bear heart and warm sense of humor. He recognized that life was beautiful but also unfair – so he was sure to remind those he loved of it, and prioritized spending time with family and friends. He treasured the John Prine lyrics: “Memories, they can't be boughten; They can't be won at carnivals for free; Well it took me years to get those souvenirs; And I don't know how they slipped away from me.” He had the courage of his convictions with a truly unique personality and way of doing things, all of which made him a singular, one-of-a-kind person who will never be replaced in the hearts of those who loved him. Mike was a beloved father, friend, colleague, teacher, brother, uncle, parishioner, and servant – and those who now move forward without him will forever cherish our souvenirs. All this despite his reminders that actual souvenirs would only end up “in the next garage sale.” Little did he know, sharing life with him was the greatest ‘souvenir’ of all.
Mike is preceded in death by his parents along with sister Laurie Smith. Surviving are his three cherished daughters Lauren (Jeff Watson) Stanisic, Emily (Nate Duncan) Stanisic, and Olivia (Michael) Brown, two sisters Ana Stanisic and Susan (John) Barron, brother Thomas Rude, and a network of dear friends. Visitation will take place from 5-8pm Monday, April 17, 2023 in the Zahoran Funeral Home, 1826 Kemble Avenue, where a prayer service will take place at 7:00pm. Funeral services will be held at 10:00am Tuesday, April 18, 2023 in Sts. Peter & Paul Serbian Orthodox Church, 59250 Keria Trail. A private burial will take place in Cedar Grove Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Sts. Peter & Paul Serbian Orthodox Church or to Hope Ministries. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.zahoran.com.
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Sts. Peter & Paul Serbian Orthodox Church
59250 Keria Trail, South Bend IN 46614
432 S. Lafatyette Street, South Bend IN 46601