WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- 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.
"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."
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 advisor 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."
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 Kiraly at Yunnan University in Kunming.