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>  News Releases >   2002 >   October

Educational Exchange and International Understanding

Posted 10/14/02

Remarks by President James Wright; October 10, 2002 at Beijing Normal University

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One of the new professors he hired was Konichi Asakawa, himself a Dartmouth graduate. Born in Nihonmatsu, Asakawa was the first Japanese student to enroll at Dartmouth in 1895. An impressive scholar and a brilliant linguist, Asakawa followed his Dartmouth degree with a Ph.D. from Yale, and then returned to Dartmouth to develop one of the first Asian Studies programs in the United States. He taught classes on East Asian civilizations including Chinese culture and history. Although Asakawa left to join Yale University, Dartmouth's commitment to Asian Studies remained.

In 1921, Dartmouth hired David Lattimore, the brother of Owen Lattimore the renowned scholar of Chinese and East Asian affairs. David Lattimore was a well-known Asian specialist in his own right and, twenty years later, was instrumental in bringing another noted Chinese scholar to Dartmouth, one who further strengthened the program and expanded knowledge in the United States.

In 1942 Dartmouth hired Professor Wing-Tsit Chan. Born in Kwangtung, China, Professor Chan graduated from Lingnan University (one of the 17 Christian universities founded at the beginning of the 20th century) in 1924 and received his Ph.D. in Philosophy and Chinese Culture from Harvard University in 1929. He went back to Lingnan University where he served as the Dean of the Faculty from 1929 to 1936 and then taught in Hawaii before coming to Dartmouth in 1942 where he stayed until 1966. Professor Chan was an extremely important scholar and was one of the most respected and popular faculty members at the College. His classes were always heavily enrolled and he helped Dartmouth to develop an extremely strong program in Asian Studies that remains one of our distinguished programs today. It was this program that assumed the leadership role in establishing our BNU initiative in 1982 and overseeing it since then.

For twenty-four years as a professor of Chinese culture and philosophy at the College, Professor Chan published six books and numerous articles, commenting on and translating important source materials and promoting the study of Chinese philosophy in the US. His thoughtful comments on international relations and China — past and present — did much to promote better understanding. His book A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy in the United States continues to be one of the most used reference works in the West.

Charles Tenney and Wing-Tsit Chan serve as models for our best aspirations — they traveled enormous distances in their quest for knowledge and both became teachers who encouraged hundreds of other students to open their minds and hearts to different ideas and cultures. And their influence did not stop there. Both Tenney and Chan worked to encourage the development of educational institutions where they worked. While Dr. Tenney helped to found and encourage the modern university in China, Professor Chan helped to introduce the field of Chinese philosophy into the United States. Both encouraged greater understanding in their host country of their native countries. It is only through studying to understand different cultures that we begin to fully understand the issues that confront us.

This is a tradition that we are proud to continue today. This year marks the 20th anniversary of collaboration between Dartmouth and BNU. In 1982, we began a program that brought a group of undergraduates from a single American college, led by a faculty member, to China to do on-campus study at BNU. This was one of the first such program of its kind between an American institution and the People's Republic of China. I was pleased, as Dartmouth's dean for the Social Sciences, working with Professors Mowry and Blader, to assist in establishing the program in 1982.

Over the past 20 years, Dartmouth has sent about 400 of our own undergraduates to study on BNU campus via the college's summer Beijing Foreign Study Program. Since the mid-1980's, the College has also sent about a dozen recent graduates to teach English at BNU. We have also been privileged to have had 13 visiting professors from BNU teach at Dartmouth. This year and last we are honored to have Professor Bai Quan with us

While our exchange program with BNU is thriving, so too is the scholarship in Asian Studies. As just one example, let me tell you about Professor Sarah Allan and Professor Robert Henricks who are collaborating with Chinese scholars — Professor Li Bo-qian and Professor Li Xue-qin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' institute of History — on the recently excavated ancient manuscripts from Guodian. As the first stage of this project, they held an international conference at Dartmouth that coincided with the release of a recently discovered text of the Laozi in May of 1998.

We must continue to give our young people the opportunity to visit and to study abroad so that they can more fully appreciate the other civilizations and cultures. Beijing Normal, like Dartmouth, has links with hundreds of other universities and institutions worldwide and welcomes scholars and students from all over the world.

In addition to 36 faculty and researchers, Dartmouth currently has 117 students from China studying as either undergraduates or graduate students in the Medical School, the Engineering School, or in the Arts and Sciences. And while we provide these students with an excellent education, they enrich Dartmouth also. They add immeasurably to the educational experience of all the other students who are lucky enough to work with them or live with them or become friends with them.

When your faculty members return from a year at Dartmouth, and when our students return from BNU they have been enriched in many ways. They will have increased their knowledge; but more important still, they will have established personal friendships that will last a lifetime and will have a tremendous impact on the future of our two countries. As we enter the 21st century, this commitment to a wider world remains an even more critical part of Dartmouth and Beijing Normal. We must encourage the exchange of faculty and students and also the exchange of ideas.

International issues remain of central concern for our institutions and our graduates. We cannot afford to neglect this part of our students' education, and we must be aware of our responsibilities in this area. If our students are to become leaders in an increasingly global economy, we must provide them with the experiences that prepare them for this.

What is more, as we seek to prepare graduates for careers in government, law, and business — to name just a few broad areas — the curriculum must introduce students to international issues and enable them to understand the world community. The most prominent institutions in this century will be those that are most heavily involved with the international exchange of both students and faculty members.

Off campus study provides an important component of such an education. Such programs enable our students to appreciate different cultural settings and few today would deny the importance of these experiences in furthering our students' understanding of the world. Any institution that is striving to play a leading role in education must also make a major commitment to internationalism. A school's reputation depends in part on having a faculty that is recognized not just nationally, but internationally.

The poet Robert Frost, who attended Dartmouth for a time in the 1890s, observed in his famous poem "Mending Wall," "Something there is that doesn't love a wall/ That wants it down." He reminded us that before we build or fix a wall, we need to ask what we are "walling in" and what we are "walling out." Yesterday, we visited the Great Wall at Badaling that was constructed during the Ming dynasty to keep out invaders from the North. In New England we also have historic walls — stone walls constructed two or three hundred years ago by New England farmers to keep in their livestock.

I know that we in New England treasure our historic walls and that the same is true for you in China. But perhaps, rather than walls, bridges would serve as a more appropriate metaphor of our relationship. We learned yesterday from our guide Xiao Kai that, in fact, walls like the one at Badaling did not simply serve as barriers but as meeting places for people on both sides to come together. We are very pleased that we have found a bridge to China and we are proud of our affiliation with BNU. We hope that our relationship will continue for many years to come.

Thank you.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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