Michael Clark Rockefeller (1938-1961) was son of then-Governor of New York (and future U.S. Vice President) Nelson Rockefeller. He graduated from Harvard College in 1960. During his first visit to New Guinea in spring 1961 with the Harvard-Peabody New Guinea Expedition, Rockefeller made a side trip to the Asmat with Sam Putnam. That fall he visited Robert Gardner in Cambridge to review material from the Harvard-Peabody expedition. Together, they began to select images and agreed that Rockefeller would edit a book of photographs. After a brief sojourn in the United States, Rockefeller returned to New Guinea to revisit the Asmat people, to photograph and continue collecting art. Rockefeller vanished in November 1961 off New Guinea's south coast when his catamaran accidentally capsized.
In memory of his son, Nelson Rockefeller funded the construction of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, for the display of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Although the bulk of the art Michael Rockefeller collected from the Asmat is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Peabody Museum is home to two of the Asmat bis poles Rockefeller accquired.
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship was established at Harvard University in 1965 to provide undergraduates with a year-long experience to "search for insights about themselves and the world" in a culture very different from their own.