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The University yesterday announced that the John K. Fairbank Center for East Asian Studies has received a $1 million gift for China research.
The gift is the first major contribution by a private donor to a $4 million endowment drive that the center recently began.
Harvard officials called the donation an important step toward replacing funds for area studies cut by private foundations and the federal government in recent years.
The gift comes from Dr. An Wang, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Wang Laboratories, who received a master's degree and doctorate from Harvard in the late 1940s. Wang also worked as a research fellow at the Harvard Computation Laboratory until he left to found Wang Laboratories.
Wang said yesterday that he made the gift as a general contribution to the Harvard Campaign. Harvard's $350 million fund-raising drive, and did not originally intend to direct the money to East Asian studies.
"[Harvard Officials] told me this was one of the critical areas," Wang said. "I leave the academic part"--where the gift goes--"to Harvard."
John K. Fairbank '29, Higginson Professor of History Emeritus and a pioneer in the field of China studies at Harvard, said the gift would help promote "a new wave of interest" in East Asian studies at Harvard.
Fairbank added that the donation would be used "to do the most important things" for China studies, especially funding post-doctoral research. Patrick G. Maddox, associate director at the Center, emphasized the crucial nature of post-doctoral research on China and called the donation a chance for rising scholars in the field "to come back to a major Center and get a shot of intellectual adrenalin."
Fairbank explained that government cutbacks and a lack of foundation support in recent years for research in the study of China had reduced the opportunity for young scholars to publish and do research in the field.
"We're being shortchanged all over," Fairbank said.
Edwin O. Reischauer, University Professor Emeritus and Honorary Director of the Japan Institute, said that after a period of expansion in the 50's, interest in East Asian studies began to slack off a decade ago. He added that the trend has begun to reverse in the last few years.
Philip A. Kuhn, director of the East Asian Research Center, said that there is not enough funding to meet rising interest in the field. In the mid-70's, he explained, the large foundations that had helped to establish area studies as viable fields in themselves--in the Far East, Soviet Union, Middle East, Latin America and Africa--began to phase out funding for these fields.
He added that the government has also gradually phased out its support of advanced research in these fields --especially in China studies--in part because China is no longer a security threat.
The Russian Research Center has undertaken a similar four-year, $5 million fund drive, Director Adam B. Ulam said yesterday. Ulam added that the Center has so far received a $750,000 "challenge grant" from the Melvin foundations and said he is "fairly confident" that it can raise "something in the order $2 million over the next two it three years."
Want also gave the University money on 1981 to establish join science fellowship in honor of Harvard professor Jumpy Chaffe who he started with as a graduate student.
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