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Graduate Fellowship Honors the Mathers!

We are very pleased to announce the establishment of a new graduate student fellowship in honor of Richard B. and Virginia Mather. Over the last sixty years, Richard and Ginny have been dear colleagues and good friends through the many manifestations of Asian studies at the University of Minnesota. During that time, Richard emerged as one of the world’s most important scholars of Chinese literature of the early medieval period.

In his research Richard drew broadly on the literatures of Asia, including Japanese and Sanskrit. So it is particularly appropriate that this new fellowship is available to graduate students in our PhD program in Asian Literatures, Cultures and Media, now entering its fourth year.

To contribute to the Mather Fellowship, please visit Asian Languages & Literatures’ Make a Gift or contact Jill Kane at CLA External Relations.

Richard B. Mather was born in 1913 in Baoding, China. He grew up in northern China speaking Chinese and came to the United States to study art and archaeology at Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude in 1935. He then began the study of religion at the Princeton Theological Seminary where he met his future wife Virginia Temple, who was a student at the Westminster Choir College. Richard was ordained as a Presbyterian Minister, whereupon he and Ginny went to Belle Haven, Virginia to begin his pastoral duties. Ginny was a music major and brought the gift of music, including her singing, wherever she went. On their way back to China to begin new pastoral duties, the Mathers’ journey was interrupted on the West Coast. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Richard and Ginny began their graduate studies in Chinese at the University of California at Berkeley under the great sinologist, Peter A. Boodberg.

The Mathers came to the University in 1949, whereupon Richard, fresh with a PhD in Oriental Languages, began the Chinese language program. His first Chinese class had only three students, only one of whom was officially registered! Quite a legacy, considering that this year’s Chinese language program had 582 registered students.

In the early years Richard also taught Chinese literature, Chinese history, and Chinese art—an early sign of his renaissance-like learning. Over the years he emerged as one of the most important scholars in classical Chinese literature. Richard retired in 1984, but even after that he kept up a vibrant life of teaching and scholarship.

In addition to his dedication to undergraduate and graduate teaching, including mentoring numerous PhDs over the decades, Richard conducted deep and extensive research in early Chinese literature, specializing on detailed studies of early Chinese poetry and Buddhism. His early book, Shih-shuo Hsin-yü : A New Account of Tales of the World (University of Minnesota Press, 1976) is a classic in the field of sinological scholarship (and reissued in 2002 by University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies). His book, The Poet Shen Yueh (441-513): The Reticent Marquis, was published by Princeton in 1988. Then in 2003 Richard published the annotated translations of the complete works of three poets of the Yung-ming period in two volumes totaling 900 pages: The Age of Eternal Brilliance: Three Lyric Poets of the Yung-ming Era (483-493) (Brill). This work is another tour de force in bringing broad scholarship to bear on this literature. Tellingly, these last two books were dedicated simply “To Ginny.?