UW hosts lecture by Rev. Herbert H. Gowen on May 11, 1909, to inaugurate new Department of Oriental Subjects.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 4/27/2009
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8999

On May 11, 1909 -- a mere three weeks prior to the Grand Opening on June 1, 1909 of Seattle's first World's Fair (the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, which was mounted on a portion of the current University of Washington campus) -- another historic event took place at the new Auditorium Building (later renamed: Meany Hall). UW faculty and senior students were summoned to attend an inaugural lecture by Reverend Herbert H. Gowen (1864-1960), the newly appointed Chair of the Department of Oriental History, Literature, and Institutions (or "Oriental Subjects"). This department will evolve to eventually (in 1983) become the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

An Impressive Scene

Gowen -- the rector at Seattle's Protestant Episcopal Trinity Church and a scholar who spoke Arabic, Chinese, English, Hebrew, Japanese, and Sanskrit -- gave a speech titled “The Significance of the Orient to the State,” which marked the University of Washington's commitment to establishing a new Department of Oriental History, Literature, and Institutions (or, as commonly known: "Oriental Subjects").  One account noted that for the first time, university faculty sat on the stage of the new Auditorium Building. "Clad in vari-colored hoods, their appearance added to the impressiveness of the scene" (Daily Pacific Wave, May 13, 1909).

Reverend Gowen said in part:

"In 1811, Pope Clement V. made an appeal to the universities of Christendom to found chairs of Oriental learning to gather up the lessons of the crusades. Not many years ago, in the interest of the Indian Empire of Great Britain, the University of Oxford founded its chairs of Sanskrit and comparative philology. The German universities today are founding chair after chair for keeping in touch with the commercial opportunities in the eastern world" (Daily Pacific Wave, May 13, 1909).

Becoming the Jackson School

Over the following decades this department's form and purpose would evolve through  expanding incarnations, including:

  • the Department of Oriental History, Literature, and Languages (1914);
  • the Department of Oriental Life, Languages, Literature and History (1925);
  • the Department of Oriental Studies (1926);
  • the Department of Far Eastern Studies (1940);
  • the Far Eastern Institute (1945);
  • the Department of Far Eastern and Slavic Languages and Literature (1949);
  • the Institute for Comparative and Foreign Area Studies (June 1971);
  • the School of International Studies (1976)
  • the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies (1983).

Sources: "Faculty Custom In Vogue Tonight -- Rev. H. H. Gowen Will Inaugurate Chair With Lecture In New Auditorium," The Daily Pacific Wave, May 11, 1909, p. 1; "Rev. Gowen Gives Initial Lecture -- Department of Oriental Subjects is Installed with Impressive Circumstances," The Daily Pacific Wave, May 13, 1909, p. 1; Felicia J. Hecker, "International Studies at the University of Washington: The First Ninety Years," Henry M. Jackson School website accessed on March 10, 2009 (http://jsis.washington.edu/jackson/history.shtml); The Jackson Report (Special Centennial Edition) (Seattle: Jackson School of International Studies, Fall 2008).

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