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Indiana University awards honorary doctorate to renowned Taiwanese writer

For Immediate Release Feb 25, 2019

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie has awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree, the highest academic recognition the university can give, to Chi Pang-yuan, one of Taiwan’s most renowned contemporary writers and one of the most acclaimed writers in the Chinese language. The presentation was made during a special ceremony at National Taiwan University, an important partner of IU in Asia.

Chi, emerita professor and former distinguished faculty member at NTU, also spent time at IU’s Bloomington campus as a student in the late 1960s and mid-1970s, which she positively describes in a chapter of her recent book, “The Great Flowing River: A Memoir of China, from Manchuria to Taiwan.” Heralded as a literary masterpiece and a best-seller, the book has won a number of awards and has been translated into several languages.

Chi Pang-yuan stands with IU president, IU first lady and National Taiwan University president
From left: Indiana University first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie, National Taiwan University Emerita Professor Chi Pang-yuan, IU President Michael A. McRobbie and NTU President Kuan Chung-ming during a ceremony at National Taiwan University to award Chi with an honorary Doctor of Letters from IU.Photo by Ryan Piurek, Indiana University

“Professor Chi is one of Taiwan’s best-known and most beloved contemporary writers, as well as the pre-eminent interpreter of Taiwanese literature, who, through her dedicated efforts to bring Taiwanese literature to the world, has helped build bridges of global understanding and cultural appreciation,” McRobbie said. “She has also written very movingly about her two periods of graduate study at IU in the late 1960 and late 1970s, and we are honored to have had this association given her subsequent long and illustrious literary career.

“We at Indiana University are extremely proud to confer upon her a well-deserved honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of her many outstanding contributions to the world of literature, her work as a great internationalist and her pioneering scholarship of the highest caliber. Her intellect, resourcefulness and perseverance are an inspiration to all of us.”

Chi translated and edited “An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Literature: 1949-1974,” which was published by Taiwan’s National Institute for Compilation and Translation and the University of Washington Press. It was the first of its kind, and it introduced works by Taiwanese authors to the world.

Chi has been a leader in the establishment and development of the study of Taiwanese literature as a discipline in global academia. She was the founding chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Chung Hsing University, and she served for more than a decade on the NTU faculty. After her retirement from the faculty, she became editor of The Taipei Chinese PEN, a widely respected journal that published translations of Taiwanese literary works.

Chi Pang-yuan holds her honorary degree from IU
Chi Pang-yuan holds her honorary Doctor of Letters from Indiana University.Photo by Ryan Piurek, Indiana University

Chi, who was born in Manchuria in 1924, came to the U.S. in 1967 as a Fulbright Scholar and taught at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute, Indiana. Soon after, she came to IU Bloomington to study English and comparative literature. Among the professors she studied under was the late IU Bloomington Chancellor Kenneth Gros Louis, a dedicated scholar known for his writings on medieval and Renaissance literature and history.

While at IU, Chi wrote, she took advantage of every “stolen” moment to study, and she counts her time in Bloomington as among the most rewarding in her life. Although she passed her qualifying exam at IU and was only six credits away from completing her Master of Arts degree, her plans were cut short when she needed to return to Taiwan to support her family.

McRobbie and IU Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum were also in Taiwan to celebrate the IU Alumni Association Taiwan Chapter’s official registration with the Taiwanese government as a nonprofit organization. IU has nearly 2,300 alumni who are affiliated with Taiwan. More than 200 Taiwanese students are currently enrolled at the university.

IU has one of the strongest China studies programs in the United States, including extensive educational and research programs in the culture and history of China as well as courses in Cantonese, Mandarin and classical Chinese languages. The university also has several productive partnerships in the region, including with NTU.

Before the degree ceremony, McRobbie and Buxbaum met with NTU President Kuan Chung-ming and other senior university officials about the renewal of the formal partnership agreement between IU and NTU, which dates back to 2004.

IU’s Maurer School of Law has enjoyed a productive partnership with NTU involving student exchanges and faculty research collaborations. Both IU and NTU have also expressed interest in potential collaborations in the area of medicine. In July, NTU will open a major new cancer research center that has been funded by Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturing company with headquarters in Taiwan.

IU students also study at NTU during the summer through the IU Chinese Flagship Program, which is directed by Chen Yea-Fen, an NTU alumna and a professor of East Asian languages and cultures at IU Bloomington. One of four federally funded Language Flagship programs at IU Bloomington, the program is housed in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

Read IU President McRobbie’s speech from the honorary degree ceremony

More about IU President McRobbie’s trip to Taiwan

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