The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been training leaders in China for over 100 years. From the early 1900s until today, the UW has been a destination for top Chinese students and Badger alumni have been returning to the China region to head schools, universities, governmental organizations, businesses and more. These graduates have advocated for reforms, advanced scientific understanding, and helped modernize China.
UW-trained pioneers in their fields include:
Chen Daisun 陳岱孫 and Fang Xianting 方顯廷, economics.
Ding Sixian 丁嗣賢 and P.T. Sah 薩本鐵, chemistry.
Liu Guojun 劉國鈞, library science.
Mu Ouchu 穆藕初, industrial management.
Xie Jiarong 謝家榮, geology and oil exploration.
Zhang Huilan 張匯蘭, women’s physical education.
Zhou Yichun 周詒春, education.
The Wisconsin China Initiative is launching the Mendota Project to document this rich history through student research projects, print and web publications and more. We believe that this is an inspiring story that needs to be told and celebrated.
We welcome any photos or documents you may have about our early Chinese alumni and are actively working to build this page, collect and archive information about our 1900s alumni, and establish a timeline of achievements. Connect with the history project.
In thinking about why UW-Madison proved attractive to so many students from China in the early 1900s, the Department of Political Science points to one of its own, Prof. Paul Reinsch. President Woodrow Wilson named Prof. Reinsch the first American minister to post-imperial China in 1913. Political Science department historian Crawford Young writes that Reinsch sparked “a striking flow of doctoral students to the department in the interwar years. Between 1929 and 1936, 7 of the 28 doctorates awarded went to Chinese scholars.”
Other important faculty in the history of UW and China:
Franklin Hiram King, for whom King Hall (housing the Soil Science Department) is named, was a Wisconsin native and professor at the University of Wisconsin from 1888-1902. His best-known book, Farmers of Forty Centuries (King, 1911 a) discusses agricultural practices he observed in China, Japan and Korea in 1909.
Chow Tse-Tsung 周策縱, acclaimed historian of the May Fourth Movement, left Harvard in 1963 to join the faculty of the fledgling Department of East Asian Languages and Literature at UW-Madison. He directed the program through most of the 1960s and 70s, directed over 20 dissertations, and drew large enrollments for his classes on calligraphy, history and literature.
Kuo-P’ing Chou, linguistics professor at UW-Madison, 1952-1980. She helped establish the Department of Chinese in 1960 and served as its first chair. Renowned for her teaching skills and innovations in language instruction, she was among the first women on campus awarded Emeritus status.
In 1974, plant pathology professor Arthur Kellman was among the first UW-Madison faculty members to visit China in the post-Mao era. Dr. Kellman traveled with a group of scientists to study China’s agricultural systems. Horticulturalist Warren Gabelman and political scientist Edward Friedman also conducted research in 1970s China.
Two key leaders served, at critical times in the 20th century, as bridges between Madison and China, exemplifying the Wisconsin Idea:
Zhou Yichun 周詒春 wrote his 1910 master’s thesis (spelling his name Ye-Tsung Tsur) in education on the development of Wisconsin High Schools. He returned to China to transform Beijing’s Tsinghua prep school into today’s leading university. He designed the campus and developed curriculum based in part on his experience in Madison, all the while encouraging students to study at his alma mater.
Chancellor Irving Shain led one of the first university delegations to China of the post-Mao era, in the process launching a visiting scholar program that attracted hundreds of Chinese academics (now known as “Shain Scholars”) to Madison. In 1980, UW-Madison had the largest PRC group on any American campus. Many of these scholars returned to China to become leading scientists and engineers.
Other key institutional events in the history of UW and China:
In June 1980, 88 scholars of Chinese literature joined a Madison conference on “Dream of the Red Chamber,” the great 18th century Chinese novel by Cao Xueqin. The international conference, which featured 42 papers presented over five days, was organized by UW-Madison Professor Chow Tse-tsung 周策縱 and was hailed as milestone for three significant features: it was the first international conference on “redology” or Red Chamber research; the first time an international conference focused on one novel; and was believed to be the first post-Cultural Revolution international conference that Chinese scholars were allowed to attend. As stated by Professor Chow, the importance of this conference is “undoubtedly an unprecedented important event in the history of China and the world literature exchange.” In 2010, Memorial Library held a special exhibit to mark the 30th anniversary of the conference.
The first group of Chinese students to receive degrees from the University of Wisconsin… (Photos and biographies for this group of 7 distinguished alumni will be coming soon. We are also working on lists of our first Chinese women graduates, our first professional schools graduates, etc.)
Bachelor’s degrees awarded in 1910:
Guok-Tsai Chao 趙國材, was vice president of Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Yet C. Owyang 歐陽月, became managing director of the Kwangtung Provincial Band in Canton.
Chu-Tung Tsai 蔡序東 served as an assistant to the Republic of China’s first premier, Wu Ting-fan.
Master’s degrees awarded in 1910:
Lau-Chi Chang 張德熙 of Canton in political science.
Kungchao Chu 朱公釗 of Nanjing in political science.
Ye-Tsung Tsur (Zhou Yichun) 周詒春 of Hubei in education.
Nae-Tsung Woo 吳乃琛 of Zhejiang in political economy.
Decade by Decade…
THE EARLY 1900s
(info on alumni coming soon)
(info on alumni coming soon)
(info on alumni coming soon)