Columbians Ahead of Their Time
V.K. Wellington Koo "The recent history of both Europe and Asia shows beyond a doubt the futility of trying to turn a tiger into a kitten by giving it a dish of cream."

V. K. Wellington Koo (1887–1985)
Columbia College 1908; PhD 1912

Koo played a major role in expanding China's relationships with the West.  Founder of the modern Chinese foreign service, he was instrumental in negotiating the end of the "unequal treaties," a series of agreements China had signed with Western powers under threat of force in the mid-nineteenth century.  He was China's delegate to the Paris peace conference of 1919, and served as acting prime minister from 1926 to 1927. Koo held the posts of ambassador to France, Great Britain, and, for ten years, the United States—he was the youngest ranking diplomat to come to the United States. Koo is also credited with China's participation in founding the United Nations, serving as his country's signatory of the UN charter.  He further extended his international role in the last phase of his career, when he served as judge and vice president of the International Court of Justice at The Hague from 1957 to 1967. 

At Columbia, Koo earned his BA in liberal arts in 1908, distinguishing himself as a brilliant student who managed to participate in a remarkable number of extracurricular activities. He served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Spectator, won the Columbia-Cornell Debating Medal, and was a member of both the track team and and Delta Epsilon Rho.  He earned his MA in political science in 1909 and PhD in 1912 (his thesis was "The Status of Aliens in China").  A fellowship bearing his name is available to doctoral students in social science whose research is focused on East Asia, especially modern Chinese history or political science.  "I regard Columbia as the great university of the future," he said at a farewell luncheon given by his Columbia classmates in 1915. "It is not only the most cosmopolitan educational center in this country, but has a warm place in the hearts of the intelligent Chinese at home."

Read more about Koo in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Wm. Theodore de Bary traces the early history of Columbia's East Asian studies programs in Columbia Magazine's Living Legacies.

The Weatheread Institute
Columbia's center for Asia-Pacific activities since 1949.

Columbia and China
Scholars explore the many connections.

View clips from a new documentary by filmmaker and Columbia alumnus Ric Burns, scheduled to air this fall on WNET.
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Columbians Ahead of Their Time

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