Tributes to Robert Scalapino

[Comments by Sung-Joo Han presented at the Celebration of Life event in honor of Robert Scalapino held on Saturday, December 10, 2011]

I have written a letter to Bob, instead of a eulogy.

Dear Bob,

I am admitting for the first time that it took me several years and much hesitation before I decided to address you as "Bob." As a good Korean who was brought up to revere the king, teacher and parents all in the same way (you of course know the influence of that whole filial piety thing), it was difficult to bring myself to call you by your first name. I could do that only after I left Berkeley and became a professor myself. I don't know if you noticed when I called you "Bob," but no matter whether I addressed you as "Professor Scalapino" or "Bob," you were ever the same kind-hearted, caring, interested and helpful teacher whom I could count on for support and guidance.

Do you remember when you once gently asked me, "Sung-joo, you seem to be an intelligent young man; why do you smoke?" You did more than teach me politics and political parties in Asia. You made me quit smoking and I have not touched a cigarette since. And I certainly thank you for that.

One advantage of having had you as teacher was that I didn't have to come to Berkeley to see you. Your frequent visits to Asia that often included stops in Korea enabled me to see you at least once a year and sometimes more. I was happy to see you healthy, robust and alert in Berkeley on your ninetieth birthday. Do you remember I said I would come back to Berkeley for your one-hundredth birthday? Well, I've come back a little bit early for that occasion, and we will remember you, fondly and affectionately, in the years to come, through your one-hundredth birthday and beyond.

Songmi, my wife, remembers with fondness and nostalgia the annual sing-along concert of Handel's Messiah "Hallelujah" chorus that Dee and you gave every Thanksgiving Day at your Berkeley home. I also remember you and Dee traveling together, the ever so loving and dedicated husband and the sweet and caring wife. It was in 1968 that I traveled with you and Dee around South Korea, from Kyongsang-do in the southeast to Cholla-do in the southwest, riding a hired Ford sedan over roads that were mostly unpaved in freezing and often snowy weather. Bob, you managed better than I the spicy Korean country dishes and the outhouses in the yeogwan, the country inns, which were often wet and slippery.

Your courage went far beyond braving Korean food and yeogwan. Face-to-face, you counseled the South Korean military leaders to quit politics and the North Korean leaders to behave. You can't win them all, but Asia, which is your love intellectually and personally, is becoming for the most part more and more democratic and economically robust. And I honestly believe that you made a great contribution to the process. The shining medal that you received from the Korean government back in 1989 speaks to it.

Now we can't hear your friendly advice any more that:

"Exercise is dangerous to your health,"


"A glass of vodka at 4 o'clock in the afternoon is good for you."

But we know you are still with us, not only with the thirty-nine books and more than five hundred articles you wrote, but also memories of chats, seminars, conferences, speeches, and numerous summaries and conclusions of proceedings that we asked you to draw up. I can still hear you saying, "I am cautiously optimistic about the soft regionalism of the region called Asia."

To paraphrase a line from one of my son's favorite movies, "You're not really gone as long as we remember you." You will indeed continue to be with us—within our hearts and minds.

On behalf of the Berkeley graduates and family, my wife Songmi, my daughter-in-law Susan Kobayashi, my son Charles, and me,


Sung-joo Han
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea

[Comments by George Yu presented at the Celebration of Life event in honor of Robert Scalapino held on Saturday, December 10, 2011]

First, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family. We miss Bob, dearly.

It is very, very difficult, even in a celebratory context, to comment on Bob Scalapino who has been and mentor and close friend for over 50 years, one who just several weeks ago said "I am talking to my doctor now and I am just fine!," and regarding one who will always remain a role model for his commitment to scholarship and unselfish encouragement and support of others.

Bob was truly an intellectual/scholarly giant, especially in the field of Asian politics and international relations. Bob was not just recognized in the United States, in academia and government, but throughout Asia as well. I am most familiar with Bob's reputation in China and Taiwan, where he is both respected and sought. Indeed, when I was in Peking University in October, they were eagerly looking forward to his return presence at a meeting in November.

I first met Bob when I was a graduate student at Berkeley in the late 1950s; following graduation, our relationship continued and grew, from a growing number of joint scholarly projects, to field research in China and Taiwan, to his frequent visits to lecture at the University of Illinois and my visits to Berkeley, to many joyful family gatherings.

It also becomes difficult to single out what impressed me most about Bob, as I am certain with each of you who knew Bob knew that he was a complex person, engaged in countless activities and projects at any given moment. Nevertheless, I would like to share with you three aspects of Bob that have left a deep and lasting impression. First, Bob possessed a forever-curious mind, always identifying new areas of research and never tiring of searching for answers, while never failing in providing encouragement and support. It was while I was a graduate student in the early 1960s that Bob came up with the idea that we should jointly research the origins and role of the Chinese archivist movement in the Chinese revolutionary process; later in the 1960s, he supported my early studies of China's Africa policy — a hot ticket now but at that time a very cold subject matter; and in the 1980s invited me to join him in a macro study to end all macro studies on China's revolutionary process from the mid-nineteenth century down to the present. In the latter instance, we completed only the first volume, but the goal and need for such as study never left Bob's mind.

Another lasting impression is Bob's unselfish support for scholarly activities. I am certain that had Bob been able to, he would have been present at the Peking University conference in November, as he had been present at countless other meetings during his lifetime. I will always remember Bob's presence and contributions at a conference I organized at Kuala Lumpur on Southeast Asia regionalism a few years ago; Bob came to the meeting despite the fact that he had only been released from the hospital five days earlier! Who knows, Bob may hold the Guinness Book of World Records for attending the greatest number of academic meetings! Of course, he enjoyed being the super star at such meetings, but he was also sought for his canny ability to sum up in a few choice words the central points of the meeting.

Finally, as anyone who knew Bob and visited his beautiful museum-like home in the Berkeley hills, there was never, never an antique or an artifact that he did not like. On occasion, his search for antiques and artifacts brought him into some interesting encounters. For example in the 1980s, we met at Nanjing to conduct research at the 2nd Historical Archives. Earlier, Bob had been in Beijing, meeting with Chinese government leaders and academics. After a few weeks in Nanjing, Bob and Dee left first for another meeting in Southeast Asia. At the airport, Bob was subject to baggage inspection, and — as you would expect — Bob had purchased a number of antiques. As many of you know, china has a law that stipulates that only antiques less than a certain number of years are permitted to be exported. Well, as you might expect, the Chinese inspector thought some of Bob's items came under that law. Therefore, the inspector continued to search Bob's carryon. In the process, amidst the antiques, he came upon a photo. It was a picture recently taken of Bob and China's then premier, Zhao Zhiyang. The inspector asked Bob if he was the one with Zhao. Bob, of course, said yes. The inspector put the photo back in Bob's carryon and said 走! Go!

Bob always believed there was something magical about antiques. I will always remember Bob as being magical!

George Yu
Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois

[Comments by Richard Ellings presented at the Celebration of Life event in honor of Robert Scalapino held on Saturday, December 10, 2011]

A Brief Conversation with Bob

Hi Bob! Wow! Is this really you?!

Yes, it is, and first I want to express my greetings to all and my appreciation for everyone's kindness. Second, I'd like to comment on my experiences here and to look ahead and provide a medium-term assessment. Thankfully, a terrific manual typewriter — just like my old one — was waiting for me, clear proof that this is heaven! The food is excellent, by the way. The steaks, while prepared rare, as they should be, are no better than Lynne's. On a positive note, I'm allowed again to have my vodka before dinner!

Speaking of the typewriter, Bob, what are your current projects?

I just completed my Christmas letter and photo and need to contact my family and Rochelle. I am close to completing a monograph, and immediately after the holidays I will prepare a survey of the opportunities and challenges here. The opportunities are extraordinary, I must say. Overall, the trends are quite promising in heaven.

We all would love to see the photo, Bob! Do you mind my asking, are you playing the harp and singing often?

For the sake of serenity and the sublime I have not been invited to join in! By the way, I did manage to do a little shopping, and, as is my proclivity, I purchased a very expensive, very large, and completely impractical artifact.

Where are you planning to display it?

Berkeley. I have a theory, not a plan, really, that if I simply drop it, it will survive reentry. It seems to me that there is a reasonable chance that one of my former students in one hemisphere or another will pick it up and send it home.

It must be stout. That actually might work, Bob, as there are so many of us.

One last comment: I was disappointed initially over the lack of frequent flyer programs here, but then I was reminded that now I have my own wings!

Well, please excuse me. I need to get back to the typewriter to complete the manuscript before hosting some dear friends this evening and departing tomorrow morning for a lecture tour.

Wonderful talking, Bob. Godspeed. …Godspeed.

Richard Ellings
National Bureau of Asian Research

[Comments by David Lampton presented at the Celebration of Life event in honor of Robert Scalapino held on Saturday, December 10, 2011]

Bob's Family, Friends, and Colleagues:

Good afternoon. I am David Lampton, professor of China Studies at Johns Hopkins—SAIS, former president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and grateful recipient of the inaugural Scalapino Prize.

One need not have been present in Bob's classes to have been his student. His students span the world, including this one who went to Stanford! Bob gave me three gifts — gifts that collectively boil down to the injunction to "perform every act of life as if it were the last."

The first gift was an organization, the National Committee on United States-China Relations, of which he was a co-founder and twice chairman, the first time in 1966. It was Bob's vision that the Committee be an organization devoted to the proposition that through knowledge and a decent respect for the opinions of others, a democracy such as ours could grope its way toward an intelligent relationship with the then one-quarter of humanity that was Chinese.

The second gift he gave me was a life-long interest in Chinese political leadership, kindling that interest with his 1972 edited volume entitled: Elites in the People's Republic of China. In the opening pages of that book he eschewed overarching theory in favor of what he called "middle-range theory" — what I believe he meant was that he was interested in how things actually worked! Bob's premise was what his own life demonstrated — leaders count.

And the final gift he gave me was the model of peace with one's own life's work. Very late in Bob's life I asked him why he never went into formal government service. He said simply, as I recall, that he wasn't very good at being a subordinate in large hierarchies and that he had always thought he was making his biggest contributions right here at Berkeley and the Pacific region that was his home. He was right. We all should live as he lived, and pass on as he passed on. Our country owes its thanks to Bob, as do I.

David Lampton
Johns Hopkins University

[Comments by Rick Baum, read by Rochelle Halperin at the Celebration of Life event in honor of Robert Scalapino held on Saturday, December 10, 2011]

When I first met Bob Scalapino in the fall of 1962, I was a naive, disillusioned first-year grad student majoring in International Relations at Berkeley. My interest in East Asia — such as it then was — had been stimulated initially in an undergraduate course I had taken on Chinese politics at UCLA. But I was by no means a committed Sinophile when I first set foot in Bob's office. When I told him of my growing impatience with general theories of IR, he listened intently and sympathetically; and he invited me to take his seminar on the International Relations of East Asia which, he assured me, was entirely free of macro-theoretical pretense and jargon. I took the course, and by the third week of the semester, I was hooked.

For the next four years, until I left Berkeley to do dissertation field research in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Bob was my teacher, my advisor, and my mentor, guiding me — among other things — through the treacherous minefield of academic politics at Berkeley.

In those years (and for decades afterwards), Bob was in constant motion, flying off after his weekly seminars to various exotic locales in East Asia and beyond. His students all marveled at his ability to keep up an inhumanly frenetic travel schedule, while still maintaining his trademark grace, poise, and sense of humor.

It was during the mid-'60s that Bob underwent perhaps his greatest personal test. Caught up in the tumultuous cross-currents of the anti-Vietnam War movement and Berkeley's own Free Speech Movement, Bob took his stand on the side of the established order. To say that he was politically unpopular with the majority of Berkeley students would be an understatement. He was widely reviled. And though I was firmly on the other side of the political divide from Bob in those years — I sat in at Sproul Hall in support of the FSM and helped to organize student anti-War demonstrations on the campus — Bob never let ideology or politics interfere with our growing professional and personal relationship. While others were losing their heads — and some of my fellow graduate student were losing their TAships as a result of political disputes with their faculty advisors — Bob remained committed to the very highest standards of personal and professional conduct. At a time of great trial and turmoil, when he was being subjected to vicious personal attacks, he "kept his cool" and continued to treat his students with care and concern. He never cancelled an appointment or failed to meet a class. I daresay I would not have made it through graduate school without his example of "grace under fire."

As most of those assembled here know only too well, Bob was a perennially "cautious optimist" about U.S. relations with China and the politics of East Asia more generally. Indeed, for more than 40 years, "cautiously optimistic" was his trademark mantra. Though in my younger, more fiery days as an inveterate pessimist I found such hedging frustrating, and even at times irritating, I must admit that, with the presumptive maturity brought by the passing decades, Bob's perennially guarded optimism was warranted far more often than not.

The last time I saw Bob was four years ago, when I visited him and his daughter Lynne at his Berkeley home, to interview him for a book I was writing about the perils and pitfalls of academic China-watching. Though he looked a bit frail, there was a gleam in his eye as he reminisced about his early career at Harvard, his years at Berkeley, and his long, loving marriage to Dee (who had only recently passed away). I came away from that final meeting with a clear sense that here was a man who had lived life fully and well. Whatever disappointments and regrets he may have had, in life and in his career, he carried with great dignity and grace. To the very end, and seemingly in all things, he was — dare I say it? — cautiously but irrepressibly optimistic. I shall miss him.

Rick Baum
Professor Emeritus, Political Science Department, UCLA
Ph.D. UC Berkeley, 1970

[Comments by Ezra Vogel, read by Steve Vogel at the Celebration of Life event in honor of Robert Scalapino held on Saturday, December 10, 2011]

Like many others, I have been deeply touched by Bob Scalapino, the tireless traveler, omnipresent conference goer, the pre-eminent political scientist of Asia in his generation. I admired him for half a century, ever since I heard him on the radio talking about the Conlon Report for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1959, in which he advised us to be more open to Communist China. And I have felt close to him ever since the late 1970s when I was on a tour of Southeast Asia, a junior colleague accompanying the gracious grand master. I had the pleasure of taking part in many conferences where he elevated the discussion to higher levels and advised scholars and officials. Like others, I marveled at his energy and dedication. I received a lovely handwritten note from him just a few days before he died.

After World War II where he served as a Japanese language officer, Bob returned to Harvard in 1946 to complete his graduate training. He was then still occupied with the question that preoccupied the postwar planning for Japan, how to introduce democracy, and he wrote his thesis tracing the effort of political parties to expand democracy before World War II, only to be eclipsed by the military in the 1930s. He revised the thesis as his first book, Democracy and the Party Movement in Prewar Japan (1952). From that time, however, Bob was determined to study all of Asia, not only Japan.

In 1949, Bob accepted an offer from the University of California at Berkeley, and two years later he was awarded tenure. He helped to build Berkeley into a world-class center for Asian studies, along with colleagues like Joseph Levenson in Chinese history, Thomas Smith in Japanese history and Franz Schurmann in sociology. Berkeley was soon strengthened by the PhD's they trained — like Fred Wakeman, Chal Johnson, and Lowell Dittmer — as well as by scholars from elsewhere.

Throughout his career, not only in Asia but around the globe, he was legendary for his energy in attending conferences, providing overviews, and advising participants. He made it a point in each country he visited to interview intellectuals and government officials of many different political persuasions, nearly all of whom also sought his perspectives. The almost continuous conversations with academics and officials in Asian countries gave Bob an extraordinary base for his understanding of current issues in Asia.

Bob's speeches and writings on contemporary affairs were also informed by his efforts to understand the history as well as the current situation. In addition to his research on Japanese political history, he collaborated with Chong-sik Lee to write a major history of Communism in Korea and with his former student George T. Yu to trace the political history in China leading up to Communist takeover. He was a master at getting to the key issues and presenting them with insight and clarity.

At conference sites, even when he was in his 80s, Bob was typically the first one down to the breakfast table as he awaited others to join in discussion. He appeared tireless as he carried on conversations throughout the day. He did not hesitate to talk about personal matters, but he did not gossip and he focused on the big international issues of the day. He was justly proud of his former students in Asian countries including Sadako Ogata, who served for a decade as UN High Commissioner of refugees; Han Sung-joo, who became South Korea's foreign minister; Mikio Higa, who became vice governor of Okinawa; and Tetsuo Kondo who became a leading Japanese Diet member.

Bob was always ready to explain his point of view, but he was skilled at listening thoughtfully to opposing views. Although Bob had strong views about how the United States should respond to major issues, he rarely advocated specific detailed policies. He advised officials but he turned down opportunities to become one. He fulfilled his mission as he saw it — providing perspective, helping us understand. He was a mentor to us all.

Ezra Vogel
Henry Ford II Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Emeritus
Harvard University

I am deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the sudden loss of a world-renowned professor, Robert Scalapino. Professor Scalapino was an accomplished scholar, best known for his East Asian studies, which has a profound impact on Asia-U.S. relations, especially China-U.S. relations. Although Professor Scalapino has passed away, his works still remain with us, along with his learning and nobleness.

Hao Ping
Vice Minister of Education
People's Republic of China

Teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1949 to 1990, Bob Scalapino instilled a belief in the importance of the Asia-Pacific in thousands of minds, many of whom became important policy leaders in their own right, both in the United States and abroad. Not only was Bob an inspiring leader and teacher, he also was a prolific writer. He authored 39 books and over 500 journal articles, which have revolutionized the way the United States engages with its Pacific allies.

I got to know him through numerous conferences, although I never studied under him. He was so generous in helping other scholars like myself. He dedicated all his life and career to developing a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific community that includes the United States. I miss him, his smile, and his generosity. We lost a giant in the field.

Toshi Hasegawa
Department of History, UCSB
Santa Barbara, CA

We have known Professor Scalapino for many years and appreciated greatly his high intellectual potential and significant contribution to the Asian studies and integration processes in this region. His talent of a leader and the deep knowledge of the Asian region promoted the development of research ties between various institutions of the Northeast Asia. In February 2009 we were glad to name him the Honorary Professor of our Institute.

We will keep the memory of Prof.Scalapino.

Pavel Minakir, Academician
Director, Economic Research Institute
Insititution of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Khabarovsk, Russia

We cannot be more fortunate to have known Robert Scalapino. He was a great friend of CSIS. He will be greatly missed at CSIS and worldwide, his legacy continues.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies
Jakarta, Indonesia

David Dewitt of York University and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Pierre Lizee of Brock University, and Brian Job of the University of British Columbia and a former international co-chair of the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific join me in the following tribute to Bob.

Bob has a special place in the hearts and minds of Canadian academics and officials involved in contemporary Asian affairs. We especially remember his steadfast encouragement of our efforts to promote cooperative security in the early 1990s when many in Northeast Asia and the US felt that multilateralism was a solution in search of a problem.

Bob combined a sophisticated realism that understood the limits of liberal internationalism at the same time that it encouraged creative intiatives when circumstances permitted. Behind his famous tag line that "I'm cautiously optimistic" was a mind that saw the world of international politics as it is with all of its limits and constraints while at the time seeing possibilities for a world that could be improved.

Unparalleled experience, subtlty of mind, constructive relations with so many in the academic and policy worlds, American in every way and yet trans-Pacific cosmopolitan, the Scalapino perspective and career are no longer replicable but are of enduring inspiration on both sides of the 49th parallel and beyond.

Paul Evans
University of British Columbia

Bob Scalapino's gargantuan contribution to Asian Studies set the highest standard for his generation of scholars. His unrelenting hard work throughout his life to create various Asian and East Asian organizations throughout the world was tremendous. At the same time his impact on the classroom should not be forgotten. My students routinely found his writing engaging and thought-provoking and stimulated lively discussions. I always included a Scalapino writing in my course syllabus. His passing leaves a vacuum but fortunately he left important ideas and an engaging body of work that will be with us in perpetuity.

Paul Krieger
Independent Scholar/Consultant

It is with the deepest regret and with the strongest sympathy and condolences to his family that I send this message in memoriam for Professor Robert Scalapino on my own behalf from the first courses I took with him In Asian Studies at Berkeley in the nineteen-sixties and that of my uncle Professor Benjamin Rivlin, who had known Bob since their graduate student days together at Harvard, for his outstanding contributions throughout his long life to the field of Asian Studies.

It is also with extreme regret that I cannot attend today's memorial service that I am sending this tribute to Bob's memory.

Martin Rivlin
Columbia and Cuny

This is Ryoichi Hamamoto, a former Yomiuri Shimbun's reporter of Japan who taught on Japanese diplomacy toward East Asia for five months in the Graduate School of Journalism, U.C. Berkeley in 2007. I met him several times during my stay.

I feel so sorry that I am not able to attend the memorial celebration of the life and contributions of a great scholar Robert A. Scalapino, R. Research Professor of Government Emeritus and Founding Director of IEAS today as I live in Tokyo, Japan.

I would like to convey my message to you, the family members that I owe many things to Professor Scalapino including that he welcomed me when I visited his home in Berkeley four years ago and I was so much impressed by his memoir published recently in Japan and he was so kind to give me kind answers by e-mail when I asked questions during WW2. I sincerely thank again for his generosity and I would remember his teachings on his Asian studies forever.

Ryoichi Hamamoto
Tokyo, Japan

We’ve received the sorrowful news about Prof. Robert Scalapino’s death. We have known Prof. Scalapino for many years and appreciated greatly his high intellectual potential and significant contribution to the Asian studies and integration processes in this region. His talent of a leader and the deep knowledge of the Asian region promoted the development of research ties between various institutions of the Northeast Asia. In February 2009 we were glad to name him the Honorary Professor of our Institute.

We will keep the memory of Prof. Scalapino.


Pavel Minakir, Academician
Economic Research Institute
Russian Academy of Sciences, Far Eastern Branch

If you would like to add a tribute to this online memorial, please send your contribution to Catherine Lenfestey at the Institute of East Asian Studies ( for posting.