Thanks to professor David Deal -
"For the China connections that persist in our lives"
Minfang Zhou, a member of the generation that endured China's Cultural Revolution, says that professor David Deal and the Whitman in China program changed her life.
The 1992 graduate recently spearheaded the establishment of the David M. Deal Scholarship to honor Deal, a professor of history who founded the Whitman in China exchange program and has overseen it for nearly 20 years.
"Dr. Deal's help was so valuable that words cannot express my deep appreciation," writes Zhou.
|Deal, in Tiananmen Square in 1996, signs autographs for a small fan club.
"Because of the Cultural Revolution, my generation lost the time and opportunity for a complete education. Due to my family background,
I had very limited educational opportunity. Though I studied as a full-time student for five years at three universities, there was no way to change the fact that I had only an associate of arts degree."
As the Chinese educational system improved, Zhou, who worked at a two-year institute in Guangzhou, felt she needed a higher degree in order to keep her position. Her opportunity arose when a state education official visited her college. With his encouragement, she applied to Whitman and was accepted through the Whitman in China program.
"In May 1988, Dr. Deal took a Whitman tour to China, and I met him in Guangzhou," Zhou said. "At that time (it is still true), it was not easy to get a student visa from the American consulate. Dr. Deal wrote a letter to the American consulate in Guangzhou, and with his assistance I got my student visa and came to Whitman."
For nearly 20 years, David Deal has been helping students from China feel at home. In this 1983 photo, Deal instructs Steven Fu, He Dai, Baodi Zhou, and Burton Pu in the art of making homemade American ice cream.
After studying for two years at Whitman, Zhou went on to earn two master's degrees, one in history and one in information systems management. Today she is a technical consultant in global services for Commerceone.com.
Zhou is one of many former Whitman students — both American and Chinese — who believe their lives were touched by David Deal and transformed by the Whitman in China program. Many have shown their regard by contributing to the scholarship, which will be awarded to students from China who need financial assistance.
The significance of the exchange program is profound, said professor George Ball, who has served as a host parent to Chinese students
at Whitman. "As a result of the program, people on both sides of the sea have a much better knowledge of each other. The cultures of the two countries are so different that this constitutes a lot of learning."
David Deal has been far more than a creator and administrator of the Whitman in China program. He has served as a friend and adviser to the students, Ball noted. "They all remember him."
They also write him frequently, and in recent letters several
expressed their gratitude to him for "the China connections that persist in our lives."
Well known for his sense of humor, David Deal appreciates this image captured in Peking in 1980 "when I had a perm." David Current, '71, took the photo of Deal chatting with an elderly gentleman.
Wrote Burton Zhen-Wei Pu, '84, "I do think that you represent what a liberal arts education really means. Being open-minded, warm-hearted, and well-learned, you have offered your students the very thing they will benefit from for the rest of their lives."
"The friendships I made while in China persist," said Karen Nesseth Ripley, '86. "It was wonderful to be able to live and work in a distant place, using language skills, developing travel-smarts, being exposed to such diversity."
"What you did for me and my classmates . . . not only opened doors to unimaginably rich and rewarding lives, but also showed us what it means to be a true educator, " said Karen Kingsbury, '82, an associate professor at Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan.
Since the Whitman in China program was founded in 1982, 45 Chinese students have enrolled at Whitman. Among the six current students from China are two whose parents attended under the program, Baodi Zhou, '83, and Shun-Hua Xia, '89. In addition, 92 Whitman students have taught English at Chinese universities. This year four members of the class of 2000 are teaching there: Shauna Felt and Annie Plantaric at Northwest Polytechnical University in Xi'an and Akshay Garg and Alan Király at Yunnan University in Kunming.
New Roads to China: the David Deal Endowment
Whitman's programs for intensive study of the language and culture of China have recently taken on new dimensions. With a gift from an anonymous donor the College has established a $1.4 million endowment — the David Deal China Exchange Endowment — to add to the Whitman in China program and launch a Chinese summer study abroad program.
Since the Whitman in China program began in 1982, young alumni have been selected each year to serve as English instructors at Yunnan University in Kunming and at Northwest Polytechnical University in Xi'an. In exchange, one or more Chinese English teachers from the universities have enrolled each year at Whitman College to perfect their English skills and learn about the United States.
Now, a third institution has been added to the program. Beginning next fall, Whitman also will send two recent graduates to Shantou University, which is in Guangdong Province, to teach in the English language program there. Two seniors — Kelly Schultz, a history major from Davenport, Washington, and Erik Oost, an art and English major from Poulsbo, Washington, have been selected.
The following year and in alternating years thereafter, Shantou University will send a Chinese English teacher on exchange to study at Whitman College.
Under a second component, the David Deal China Exchange Endowment will cover a substantial portion of a new Whitman Summer Studies in China program. The program will give students a chance for six weeks of intensive study of Chinese language and culture at Yunnan University as well as travel in the region.
"They will be learning conversational Chinese in an environment where they can immediately put it into practice," said Susan Brick, director of international programs.
"They will be in class three hours a day with a Chinese teacher. These will be small classes, four or five students only," Brick said. She noted that some details are still to be arranged by the university including the possibility of assigning Chinese students to act as language partners.
The program will begin next summer with Chas McKhann, associate professor of anthropology, accompanying the students as faculty director. An expert on the Tibeto-Burman peoples of Yunnan Province, one of the most ethnically diverse provinces in China, McKhann will teach a seminar titled Introduction to Yunnan Peoples and History. The course will include travel to rural villages and towns and visits to important historical and cultural sites.