|Looking back at the history of the program, alumni, faculty and peer reviewers agree that much of the East Asian Studies program's success reflects the vision of the program's founding faculty.
“Part of the reason that we have been able to establish such a program is the foresight and dedication of Gene Swanger, professor emeritus of religion and the program's founder, Jim Huffman, professor emeritus of history, and Stan Mickel, professor emeritus of languages,"said Jennifer Oldstone-Moore, the program's current director. “This is really true because not only did they have the idea, but they went for grants to expand the program, added many cultural events, and also pushed themselves to learn and teach about East Asia, not just for their own expertise. Thus you had Stan Mickel, language professor and expert on Chinese oracle bones (c. 1300 BC), teaching about modern Japan in EAS 100."
"We have colleagues who really combine what Wittenberg is all about," said Jim Huffman prior to his retirement. "They are really active scholars."
"The diversity of faculty and breadth of courses also keep us competitive," Swanger added.
As part of Saturday's celebration, Swanger, Huffman and Mickel will be recognized.
"Dr. Swanger came to Wittenberg with the foresight and vision to create the East Asian Studies program as we know it today," wrote the student editors of the internationally known East Asian Studies Journal, produced at Wittenberg, in the Spring 1999 issue, which they dedicated to Swanger, recipient of the university's top faculty prize, the Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Teaching, and appointed to The Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department. "Opting to focus on the then little known area of Chinese and Japanese Studies while at the University of Iowa, Dr. Swanger soon distinguished himself as a leading scholar and educator of Chinese and Japanese religions. ...Without fail, students leave his classroom with an appreciation of the wonders of East Asia and the process of learning."
In addition to working with the Association for Asian Studies and serving on its editorial board, Huffman also earned the respect of his students and colleagues alike, having received three Fulbright Awards in his distinguished career. His teaching honors include the Ohio Academy of History’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Teaching. Huffman was awarded honorary alumnus status in 2006. The author of six books including A Yankee in Meiji Japan and Japan: A History in Documents, Huffman has also published articles in both Newsweek and The New York Times.
Mickel's passion for Chinese language inspired countless students to learn a language so vastly different from their own. President of AsiaNetwork, a consortium of more than 100 North American colleges, Mickel, like his colleagues, always encouraged students to experience East Asian culture, including organizing an 11-day tour of China for student in 2002. As part of the tour, the students stayed at Chinese-run hotels rather than Westernized ones. Among his more than 25 published works is the definitive Dictionary for Readers of Modern Chinese Prose: Your Guide to 250 Key Grammatical Markers in Chinese.
Together, Swanger, Huffman and Mickel built a program that not only inspires but challenges in ways few schools can claim.