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Tributes: Jerome Ch’en

Tributes: Jerome Ch’en

Remembering Professor Ch’en:

When I first arrived at York University, many years ago, I was introduced to Professor Jerome Ch'en and we had lunch together. I was immediately struck by his kindness and wit. Afterwards, whenever I could I would drop by his place and have a chat with him. He would inquire about what I was doing and about my family, and share memories of his life in China, then in the U.K., and in Canada. He would show me what he was reading - I remember Graham Greene was one of his favorite writers and he was very interested in Italian Renaissance painting. Time would fly.

Professor Ch'en was a prodigiously erudite scholar, but he was not pedantic; he was a principled man, but not self-righteous. As he knew so well, an ideal friend, according to Confucius, should be upright, sincere, and have the kind of knowledge that comes from constant observation. I think those were also his personal standards. His life experience was rich and fascinating but the simplicity and understanding with which he could talk about his personal acquaintance with some of the major figures of Chinese and world culture and politics was simply astounding. In an era of self-promotion his humbleness, intellectual integrity, and vision stand out as rare treasures.

Nobody contributed as much as Professor Ch'en did for the East Asian Studies Program of York University. More in general, only a few scholars contributed as much as he did to the intellectual reputation of York University.

Let us cherish his legacy.

Pietro Giordan,
Associate Professor of Chinese Literature and Culture


Jerome Ch’en was remarkable for having lived through and having overcome hardship in his youth, early career, and personal life—without ever becoming bitter or spiteful. He achieved immense academic prestige as a pioneer in the field of Republican China, yet remained modest to the end. He was kind and helpful in nurturing young scholars. He played a key role in establishing the East Asian Studies Program and taught a hugely popular 1000-level course in it annually titled “Youth in Asia,” but a wry sense of humor led him to dub it “Euthanasia” based on what he purportedly did to students. Jerome was not only highly respected professionally, but also warmly admired personally, in a way that few of us can hope for.

Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar,
Department of History, York University


I wish I had had the opportunity to know Professor Jerome Ch’en. He was a very fine scholar who left an important institutional legacy at York University from which all of our Asia-focused researchers continue to benefit.

Susan J. Henders, Associate Professor, Politics & Faculty Associate,
York Centre for Asian Research