Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 5/06/2009
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9005
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The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies is a world-renowned research and educational center that traces its deep Seattle roots back a full century and through various  incarnations -- each of which reflected the academic interests and political concerns of their times. Celebrating its centennial this year, the University of Washington-based school's origins date back to 1909 -- but it was in 1983 that it received a new name: one that saluted Washington State's longtime senior U.S. senator. By adopting that new honorific moniker, the organization's intent was to acknowledge the outstanding foreign affairs expertise displayed by Henry Martin Jackson (1912-1983) over his four-plus decades of public service, and his direct efforts to support the school's important work.

Simultaneous Centennials

It was 100 years ago that the University of Washington -- an educational institution originally founded downtown (in 1861) and moved northeastward (in 1895) to its current site -- leased out the southern portion of its undeveloped acreage to the A-Y-P Exposition Company, which was the producer of Seattle's first world's fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Thus, in that summer of 1909, the A-Y-P Exposition was mounted on land adjacent to the UW, which at the time amounted to the Administration Building and a mere half-dozen other structures.

The A-Y-P Exposition contributed directly to the growth of UW's physical infrastructure. For example, the exposition's new Auditorium Building would ultimately be repurposed as the university's original (Edmond) Meany Hall, and most significantly here, even prior to the A-Y-P's grand opening (on June 1, 1909), it served as the site for launching a prestigious and auspicious new department.

On the evening of May 11, 1909, the Reverend Herbert H. Gowen (1864-1960), the newly appointed departmental chair, gave an inaugural lecture ("The Significance of the Orient to the State") at the auditorium that was intended to mark the university's commitment to establishing a new Department of Oriental History, Literature, and Institutions. The department, commonly called "Oriental Subjects," was based in the UW's first structure, the Administration Building (renamed Denny Hall, for Seattle pioneer and "father of the university" Arthur Denny, in 1910).

The Pollard Period

Just as the A-Y-P signified a growing recognition of the important role that the Pacific Northwest could play in commerce, industry, and other realms of Pacific Rim relationships, so too did the UW's subsequent move. It was in 1914 that the school's new department -- renamed Oriental History, Literature, and Languages (and then in 1925 as Oriental Life, Languages, Literature and History, and in 1926 simply as Oriental Studies) -- was formalized there. It was Gowen (who spoke Arabic, Chinese, English, Hebrew, Japanese, Sanskrit, and had once worked at a mission in Hawaii) who taught most of its courses up through 1931. During those years, Gowen successfully raised public awareness about interesting foreign matters. Along the way, he befriended many academic colleagues, including the very supportive David Thomson (1871-1953) -- an eventual vice-president of the university, and the man in whose honor the department's eventual (1948) building would be named.

During the following years, a number of other distinguished scholars led the department, including Robert Thomas Pollard (1897-1939), a political science Ph.D. who had taught at Shanghai, China, and was brought in from the University of Minnesota in 1931. It was Pollard who hired Ivar Spector in 1933 to teach Russian, Hebrew and Arabic language courses, as well as the Chinese expert Knight Biggerstaff  (1906-2001) in 1936. Working together, Pollard and Biggerstaff submitted the school's first successful grant proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation, which helped kick-start the university's excellent collection of Asian materials. Then in April 1939, Pollard suddenly died and by May the UW offered the position of acting executive officer of the department to George E. Taylor (1905-2000).

Department of Far Eastern Studies

Taylor was a China specialist who had studied at the University of Birmingham, England, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard, and then taught in China for much of the 1930s. As one historical account noted: "Early in 1937, Taylor, also active in the Chinese resistance movement, made contact with guerrilla forces through an agent in Beijing and began to aid the resistance by facilitating the smuggling of funds and medical supplies into central Hopei. In late 1938, Taylor's activities had been discovered by the Japanese secret police, making his stay in China ever more perilous" (Hecker). In June 1939, Taylor accepted the offer from Seattle and within a year he'd updated the school's name to the Department of Far Eastern Studies, which he felt better reflected the goal of focusing on America's interests in the greater Pacific region including China, Eastern Siberia, Japan, and the South Pacific.

Taylor began recruiting additional top-tier instructors including Franz H. Michael (1907-1992), an expert in Chinese matters, and E. H. Norman (1909-1957), a Japanese studies scholar. But the early war years disrupted their plans: Norman was called to a diplomatic assignment by his Canadian government and Taylor himself was drafted by the Office of War Information and assigned to a post in Washington, D.C. In Taylor's absence, Michael was designated as the department's acting chair, in which capacity he led a campus-based U.S. Army Specialized Training Program that focused on socio-economic, institutional, and geographical histories of China, Japan, and Korea (along with their languages). But Michael's most significant contribution was perhaps the organizing of an interdisciplinary program that encouraged greater cooperation among numerous university departments. The school's efforts to overcome traditional interdepartmental reluctance to cede "turf" and embrace the new idea of a robust foreign studies unit was challenging, but ultimately successful.

Far Eastern Institute

With a another grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Michael added staff to develop a Far Eastern and Slavic studies program and in April 1945, UW President L. P. Sieg (1879-1963) formally announced the establishment of the Far Eastern Institute -- along with its mildly controversial interdepartmental status.

Taylor returned to the UW in 1946, and with generous funding by various organizations -- over the next decade nearly $1.4 million in support was received from the combined grants of organizations including the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford foundations -- the school thrived. Under his leadership over the following two decades -- and with the recruitment of a stellar lineup of academic talents, including Asian expert, Kenneth B. Pyle (b. 1936) -- the "University's reputation [went] from a provincial backwater in Far Eastern and Russian studies" to that of one of "the country's premier institutions of higher learning" (Hecker).

In 1949 the school was again renamed, this time as the Department of Far Eastern and Slavic Languages and Literature. The department existed as a core unit within the newly formed Far Eastern and Russian Institute (whose charge was based in the realm of the social sciences), an arrangement that lasted for two decades. The 1960s saw massive additional funding provided by the federal government and various organizations, including the Scaife Family Foundation, which gifted $108,000 in honor of Gowen. (Coincidentally, in 1977 one of the buildings in the UW's Liberal Arts Quadrangle was rededicated as Gowen Hall.)

In March 1968, Taylor posited that the existing relationship between the UW's Far Eastern and Russian Institute and its Department of Far Eastern and Slavic Languages and Literature was less effective than another organizational arrangement he envisioned: the establishment of a School of International Studies, whose mission would be more global by extending studies into other important areas, including Africa and Latin America. The UW regents responded in August by formally splitting the Department of Far Eastern and Slavic Languages and Literature into the Department of Asian Languages and Literature and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, while essentially leaving the Far Eastern and Russian Institute intact. Although that move was not precisely what Taylor had proposed, he retired in 1969 with a record of significant achievements. Upon his departure, an East Asian scholar, George M. Beckmann (1926-1998), was promoted to Taylor's former position at the institute, and through his efforts the organization was formally renamed as the Institute for Comparative and Foreign Area Studies in June 1971 (the same year saw Donald C. Hellmann appointed as director). That name change reflected the reality that various faculty members were already expanding their course offerings, including new Middle East Studies and Comparative Religion programs.

School of International Studies

In June 1976, the institute's next director, Herbert J. Ellison (1929-2012), informed UW President John R. Hogness (b. 1922) of plans to, once again, revamp the organization -- this time honoring Taylor's original idea of a School of International Studies. The goal would be to elevate it to the "ranks of the five or six comprehensive centers of international studies in this country (none of which is presently located on the West Coast)" (Ellison).

Ellison also spearheaded a new round of fundraising to support the school's expanded activities at a time when grants from the government and private foundations had begun to diminish a bit. Ellison began planning a drive aimed at the business sector, but in 1977 he was lured away to a post in Washington, D.C., and Pyle took his position at the institute. The following year, in an effort to solicit support for the school, Pyle make a sojourn to the Washington, D.C., offices of Senator Henry M. Jackson.

Enter Scoop Jackson

"Scoop" Jackson was a native son of the Northwest who was born to Norwegian immigrants in Everett on May 31, 1912, a 1930 graduate of Everett High School, a 1935 graduate of the University of Washington's law school, and a successful candidate (in 1938) for Snohomish County prosecuting attorney. In 1940 his reputation as an effective crusader against crime and corruption catapulted him into the U.S. Congress (2nd District) where he gained acclaim as an expert in important regional topics such as water reclamation and hydroelectricity, and subsequently in nuclear energy and military affairs.

When World War II broke out, he left congress to join the U.S. Army, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) interceded and soon had him back serving his nation in Congress. After being elected to six consecutive terms, Jackson successfully won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1952. During the following decades he would weigh in on all of the most important foreign affairs issues of the day and also serve in many important posts, including chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; chairman of the Committee on Interior Affairs; member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy; and as ranking Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee.

Jackson's Actions

Although the senator and the school didn't connect in Washington, D.C. on that summer day in 1978 -- Jackson was away from his office when Pyle arrived without an appointment -- the famously responsive politician would, only months later, meet with Pyle at his Thomson Hall office. Once they got together, their two-hour chat resulted in the senator's enthusiastic commitment to assist. That promise quickly led to a drive that established an endowment fund that benefited greatly from the efforts of other movers and shakers that Jackson was able to bring aboard, including T. A. Wilson (1921-1999), CEO of Boeing; Edward Carlson (1911-1990), CEO of United Airlines; and other business and community notables. Jackson himself got the ball rolling by kicking in a $5,000 donation -- along with a generous pledge to contribute all future speaking honoraria fees. The busy senator also attended and spoke at numerous fundraising events, solicited additional supporters, and even penned personally written notes of gratitude to contributors. Remarkable though Jackson's dedication to the school might seem, it was in keeping with the character traits he had exhibited throughout his life.

In his 43 years of government service, Jackson solidified his reputation as a social liberal, a security hawk, and an acknowledged authority on energy, environmental, and national security issues. On September 1, 1983, Jackson -- husband to Helen and father to daughter Anna Marie (b. 1963) and son Peter (b. 1966) -- passed away in his hometown at the age of 71.

Honoring Henry M. Jackson

Two weeks later, on September 16, 1983, the UW's Board of Regents announced that the school (still based in Thomson Hall) would be rededicated as the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) to acknowledge Jackson's decades of productive involvement in foreign affairs, active interest in advanced educational opportunities, and tireless support for the school. In time, additional changes occurred at the JSIS. In 1988, John O. Haley became director, succeeded by Jack Dull (1930-1995) in 1989, Nicholas R. Lardy in 1991, Jere L. Bacharach in 1995, Martin Jaffee (acting director) in 2000, and Resat Kasaba (acting director), and, most recently, Anand Yang in 2002.

Today the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies has expanded to include eight National Resource Centers, and it offers students seven undergraduate majors, 14 minors, and nine interdisciplinary programs leading to master of arts degrees. In addition, the Jackson School sponsors many annual conferences, colloquia, and seminars, along with community presentations and coordinated activities with public-school K-14 educators. To celebrate the JSIS's 100th anniversary on May 11, 2009, a grand Centennial Gala event was scheduled at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel (4th Avenue and University Street).


"Faculty Custom In Vogue Tonight -- Rev. H. H. Gowen Will Inaugurate Chair With Lecture In New Auditorium," Daily Pacific Wave, May 11, 1909, p. 1; "Rev. Gowen Gives Initial Lecture -- Department of Oriental Subjects Is Installed with Impressive Circumstances," Daily Pacific Wave, May 13, 1909, p. 1; Herbert J. Ellison, June 3, 1976, letter to John R. Hogness, Henry M. Jackson School website accessed on March 10, 2009 (http://jsis.washington.edu/jackson/history.shtml); "UW to Receive Official Papers of Late Sen. Henry Jackson," The Seattle Times, September 15, 1983, p. D-5; "UW Is Ready to Name a School for Jackson," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 16, 1983, p. D-2; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Denny Hall at University of Washington" (by Paul Dorpat), http://historylink.org/ (accessed March 18, 2009); 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); Kenneth B. Pyle, "Senator Henry M. Jackson and the Jackson School," The Jackson Report, Special Centennial Edition, (Seattle: JSIS, Fall 2008), p. 6; HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Jackson, Henry M. "Scoop" (1912-1983)," (by Kit Oldham), www.historylink.org/ (accessed March 6, 2009); Henry M. Jackson Foundation website, hmjackson.org, accessed on March 11, 2009 (http://www.hmjackson.org/).

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