McAdams was born on May 8, 1947 in an American Marine base in California, where his father was an officer. He also served in the Marines, but he was more interested in books than a military career, and after completing his military duty, he studied and graduated with a diploma in historical sciences at the University of the Pacific, a well- known, private university in California. He would receive his Masters degree at the Jesuit run John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he also received a certificate in Soviet and Eastern European Studies. He continued his studies in comparative politics and ideological sciences at the University of Colorado and at the University of San Francisco. After completing his doctorate courses, McAdams became a regional director of the University of San Francisco in 1979 where he would remain until his retirement in 2000.
There is an old proverb that says that true friendships are not chosen but simply happen. The same could be said of McAdams and his friendship with Croats. He is of Scottish-Jewish background and was a Protestant by faith. He learned about Croatia as a child; he was a stamp collector and Croatian stamps came into his hands. But when he began reading history books and listening to professors as a student, he saw that everything he read and heard about Croats was negative. It was precisely, the constant demonization of the Croats that McAdams began to explore whether the fog of deception was by those who advocated the status quo or the laziness of researches and professors to seek the truth about these routine tales, or if it was really true. He did not believe that history was really that black and white, and he wanted to dive deeper into Croatia’s past. Then a chance meeting happened that would define his future academic career.
Namely, prior to completing his studies, McAdams found himself on California Street in San Francisco. He walked past a European auto dealer and noticed a small Croatian flag on one of the cars. He walked in and asked if any Croats worked there, wanting to make contact with Croats in the city. The man that McAdams posed the question to was a Croat, Zvonko Pribanic, a well known Croatian businessman in California. With that chance meeting, McAdams’ lasting friendship with Zvonko and the Croats “happened”. In his search for the truth McAdams came into contact with people who only wanted that the truth about Croats be told, and a real alliance was born. As Michael read more and researched the “other side” he found that what was being said about Croats was a myth and not reality. He wanted to not only to find the truth but share it with others as well.
To better acquaint himself with Croatian history, McAdams continued his graduate studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, where his mentor was Jure Prpic, and where he meets and collaborates with other Croatian academicians in America. Upon returning to California, Michael becomes active among the local Croats there, and among other things, becomes one of the founders of the Croatian Information Service in 1974. The other founders were Petar Radielovic, Zvonko Pribanic and Damir Rados. From then until the end of his life, McAdams did not cease to explain to Americans and others who, why, and what Croats wanted. He wrote numerous books and booklets, a number of contributions in almanacs, and more than one hundred articles. One of his most popular books, “Croatia, Myth & Reality,” was translated into Croatian (Hrvatska – mit i istina) and other languages, and saw three English editions in 1992, 1994 and 1997. He held many lectures, assisted with seminars and appeared on TV and radio broadcasts.
For years, McAdams prepared and led a segment called “Moments in Croatian History” on the weekly Croatian radio program in California. He was a member of the Association for Croatian Studies, Croatian Academy of America, Croatian-Latin America Institute, Croatian Scholarship Fund and many others. He was a guest lecturer at many universities in America, Australia and after independence, Croatia. For his services to the Croats, President Franjo Tudjman awarded him the Order of Danica Hrvatska with the image of Marko Marulic.
Read the article in Croatian here