For China Studies and History Professor Madeleine Yue Dong, becoming the first recipient of the Vincent Y.C. Shih Endowed Professorship at the University of Washington means more than a title.
“When I learned that I was to receive this professorship, I thought about the journey that Professor Shih and his family took to arrive at the UW 72 years ago,” she told the crowd of UW Jackson School and History Department faculty and staff, and family and friends of the late Vincent Shih, gathered on the evening of April 19 at the UW Club for a reception and dinner to inaugurate the new professorship.
In her remarks, Dong highlighted the journey of Vincent Shih, from his birth in a coastal city in China in 1902 to his academic achievements in philosophy in China and his arrival in the U.S. and finally at UW in the 1940s to teach in what was then called the Far Eastern Studies program, and today’s Jackson School.
She noted in particular his commitment to public good and work on Taiping ideology among others as laying foundations for later scholarship.
Of one of Prof. Shih’s essays in the 1960s about the follies of the Cultural Revolution in China that resulted in mass human suffering, Dong noted:
“What he [Prof. Shih] is telling us is that, as scholars, we set the record straight, we argue on behalf of those who cannot do so for themselves, and we preserve the wisdoms and valuable lessons from the past even if they are trampled intentionally or blindly by many at the moment.”
Vincent Shih taught for 30 years at UW before retiring in 1973.
A gift for next generation China Studies
Bill Shih, son of Prof. Shih, told the audience about the opportunity the UW gave his father, and by extension, him. He stressed the importance of mutual understanding among different countries and societies, which he said is what an institution like the Jackson School does.
He and his wife, Bernadette, who also attended the event, gave the generous endowment of the Vincent Y.C. Shih professorship.
“Professor Vincent Y.C. Shih is one of those giants whose research inspired generations of China scholars. We are proud to have him as part of our history,” said Director of the Jackson School Reşat Kasaba, who also opened the ceremony. “The Jackson School is grateful to the Bill and Bernadette Shih for making it possible for us to recognize Professor Shih’s contributions to the field of China Studies with an endowed professorship that carries his name.”
Dong, in thanking the Shih family, underscored Vincent Shih as trailblazing UW into being a home to scholars and students from China, including the additions of professors from China in history, linguistics and literature, “who have made the UW into a powerhouse in the field of Chinese studies.”
In fall 2017, a China economist will join the China Studies program. The program has faculty that includes scholars from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Asia and other parts of the world.
“I believe that Professor Shih would have been pleased if he had learned how this university is touching, challenging and inspiring new generations of scholars and students as it had done for him,” said Dong.
Other family attendees at the ceremony included Shih’s extended family members.
In addition, Martha Hsiao and David Hsiao, daughter-in-law and grandson respectively of Prof. K.C. Hsiao who joined the UW China Studies faculty in 1949 and was a colleague of Prof. Shih, participated in the inauguration.