When Seton Hall University’s president, Dr. Gabriel Esteban, stepped off of a plane in Beijing last February, it wasn’t his first time. Nor was it the first time a representative from the University has been there. Far from it.
While businesses and universities are clamoring to get into China—it’s already a familiar place for Seton Hall. The relationship began almost 60 years ago with the opening of Seton Hall’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. When China opened to the West more than 30 years ago the University was among the first to develop an exchange program with Chinese universities. “We were there before it was cool or hip,” said Dr. Esteban following his most recent trip.
The Institute of Far Eastern Studies began in 1951 when Monsignor John McNulty, then president of the University, hosted a luncheon for Chinese diplomats and other Asian leaders. It was at this meeting that McNulty took the opportunity to announce the opening of the institute, which sought to facilitate a better understanding between the people of Asia and those of the United States.
That same day Monsignor McNulty named the founding advisory board that included Most Reverend Paul Yu Pin, Archbishop of Nanking, China, and later a cardinal and president of Taiwan's Fu Jen Catholic University; John Chang Myun, prime minister of the Republic of Korea; Kotaro Tanaka, chief justice of Japan, who later became president of Tokyo University; Ngo Dinh Diem, former prime minister of Vietnam and later president of the Republic of Vietnam; and John C.H. Wu, a distinguished Chinese jurist and minister of China to the Holy See who, just months earlier, had been appointed a professor at Seton Hall's newly founded School of Law.
The institute began teaching Asian languages in 1952, and in the 1960’s it became the first university in the United States to produce Asian language textbooks, which were used at Harvard and Yale Universities as well as to train Government officials.
In the words of Dr. Jason Yin, a professor at the Stillman School of Business who is involved in the program and leads a trip to China every summer, “Our first exchange students are retired.”
That rich history continues today. Seton Hall now has a Chinese language website for its China office. Take a look at it »
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