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President Skorton's Remarks

David Skorton, Cornell University President

Photo of President SkortonNi Hao!

It is a pleasure to welcome all of you to today’s conference, “East Asia: Challenges of Complex Realities in an Era of Globalization and Digitization.” This is the 14th annual international conference of the Association of Chinese Professors of Social Sciences in the United States (ACPSS). And I especially want to welcome the board members of the ACPSS, the president of Chinese Sociological Association, Professor Zheng Hangsheng, University Librarian of Tsinghua University, Professor Xue Fengyu, and conference participants who have traveled here from all over the United States, Canada, and even from China itself.

The conference is being held here at Cornell in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the Cornell Library’s Charles W. Wason Collection on East Asia. This distinguished collection was launched in 1918 with a large body of materials on China collected by Charles W. Wason, a railroad magnate who graduated from Cornell in 1876. His interest in China apparently began when he and his wife traveled there on a pleasure cruise in 1903. After years of personally collecting materials about and from China, he hired a publisher friend to take over the task of buying additional valuable items for his collection. He bequeathed to Cornell 9,500 books and more than 2000 other materials, such as pamphlets and manuscripts. Among the rarest and most significant items in the bequest were the Macartney papers, which document the 1792 embassy sent to China by the British crown; a set of publications of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service; several original manuscript volumes of the huge 15th-century Chinese encyclopedia called the Encyclopedia Maxima. Since that starting point in 1918, the Wason Collection has expanded to encompass materials from Japan and Korea. Now consisting of more than 600,000 items, the Wason Collection is one of the premier East Asian library collections in the country. I hope all of you will feel free to make full use of the its resources this weekend and on future visits.

As we celebrate the 90th anniversary of this valuable resource, we also honor Charles W. Wason’s stated ideal: “To bring China and the United States into closer intellectual relations.” That ideal is very similar to one of the chief goals of the ACPSS: to promote scholarly dialogue between China and North America. And in that, the ACPSS has been vigorous and successful. Wason’s aim of creating intellectual connections between countries is also closely akin to one of Cornell’s priorities—to be a land-grant university to the world. Cornell was founded as the land-grant university of the state of New York, giving us a special responsibility to teach practical as well as academic subjects, and to perform a role of outreach and public service to the state’s citizens. Today we broaden that focus in an effort to serve, in similar ways, not just our own region but the world. Cornell not only sponsors major programs abroad, such as our medical school in Qatar, but also fosters intellectual exchanges across many borders. Many of our departments have connections in China.We are particularly proud of our China and Asia-Pacific Studies Program, which includes four years of intensive Chinese language training and in-depth study in history, politics, society, economics and foreign relations, as well as a semester at Peking University. In addition, Cornell Law  School also launched a Clark Program in East Asian Law and Culture intended to bring a broad interdisciplinary and humanistic focus to the study of East Asian legal system. And just last week, a delegation from the Eastern China Normal University came to Cornell and signed the agreement with Cornell Society for the Humanities and the Department of Theatre, Film, and Dance to initiate the Cornell-China Institute for Arts and the Humanities.

Today Cornell is honored to host the members of the Association of Chinese Professors of Social Sciences and to welcome international scholars to our campus. Thank you all for coming to Cornell.