Insights and Analysis

Luce Scholars Program Marks 40 Years

May 29, 2013

By David L. Kim

Since its launch in 1974, The Asia Foundation has had the honor of administering in Asia the signature program of the Henry R. Luce Foundation, the Luce Scholars program, a major effort to provide an awareness of Asia among future leaders in American society. On Sunday, May 19, 2013, at One UN Plaza in New York City, members of the boards of trustees of The Asia Foundation and the Luce Foundation, along with Luce Scholars, gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Luce Scholars program, and to recognize this remarkable partnership.

Luce Scholar Program celebrates 40 years

Asia Foundation Executive Vice President Suzanne Siskel shares her experience as a Luce Scholar in Indonesia. Photo/Don Pollard

The Luce Scholars program remains unique among American-Asian exchanges in that it is intended for highly qualified young leaders – under the age of 29 – who have had limited experience of Asia and who might not otherwise have an opportunity in the course of their careers to come to know Asia. The year-long program for up to 18 scholars every year provides stipends, language training, and individualized professional placements in Asia. The range of organizations that have hosted Luce Scholars over the years reflects the extraordinary dynamism and rich diversity of Asia, and is as broad as the scope of talents and interests of the scholars themselves.

In his prepared remarks for the evening, Dr. Haydn Williams, President Emeritus of The Asia Foundation, touched upon the long and warm association between The Asia Foundation and the Luce Foundation. “Both Foundations were early patrons of higher education in Asia, especially colleges for women,” said Dr. Williams. “Luce was also an early important backer of The Asia Foundation’s programs in law and human rights, and was the principal underwriter of The Asia Foundation’s successful regional program, slowly building ASEAN’s private sector underpinnings.”

Over these four decades, what has remained consistent is the dedicated commitment of the staff of both Foundations in working together to identify, guide, and support generations of creative spirits and inspired talents. Of the nearly 700 Luce Scholars and alumni, many have gone on to demonstrate extraordinary and visionary leadership in their personal and professional careers, their ranks including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, authors and artists, the world’s first female fetal surgeon, the recent president of the World Bank, U.S. ambassadors and senior government officials, and accomplished leaders and innovators across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors.

Asia Foundation President David D. Arnold introduced two members of the Foundation’s board, Terrance Adamson (Japan 1975-1976) and Missie Rennie (Philippines 1975-1976), as well as executive vice president Suzanne Siskel (Indonesia 1974-1975), who all movingly recounted their formative time as young Luce Scholars in Asia, and shared how this experience continues to this day to shape and inform their professional and personal lives.

Dr. Michael Gilligan, president of the Luce Foundation, spoke of the continued importance of the program, even as America’s understanding of Asia has changed significantly since the 1970s. “At the Luce Foundation, we still believe Asia matters,” said Dr. Gilligan. “We also continue to strongly believe that leadership matters.” Dr. Gilligan highlighted the key unique contributions to this program of two very special “Margarets” – Margaret Boles Fitzgerald, current chair of the Luce Foundation’s board of directors, and the late Margaret Williams, who he called “the soul” of the program.

Dr. Williams’ remarks closed with: “a simple salute and a thank you to the Luce Foundation for its vision. Congratulations to the scholars for giving life to the hopes and promises of the program, inherent in the minds of its founders 40 years ago – purposes and dreams which have and will continue to be realized with the passage of time.”

Today, as it has for four decades, the Luce Scholars program remains living testament to the commitment of both The Asia Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation to building understanding and appreciation of Asia, and to strengthening the relationship between the United States and Asia one person at a time.

David L. Kim is The Asia Foundation’s Luce Scholar coordinator, based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.


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