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In the 19th and early 20th century, Cornell students represented almost all of the people of Asian heritage in Tompkins County. Cornell’s first Japanese student, Kanaye Nagasawa, studied Natural History in 1870; the first Japanese graduate, Ryokichi Yatabe, graduated in 1876. After 1900, international students came in increasing numbers. Alfred Sao-ke Sze, the first Chinese student, graduated in 1901. In 1906, the Trustees authorized six scholarships a year for Chinese students. In 1908, funds authorized by President Theodore Roosevelt from the Boxer Indemnity, imposed on China after the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, were used to fund these scholarships. Many Chinese students came to Cornell. The most illustrious was undoubtedly Hu Shih, sometimes called “the father of the Chinese literary renaissance,” who graduated from Cornell in 1914. Six Indian students entered the College of Agriculture in 1905, and considerable numbers followed. The 1908 Alumni Directory lists 53 Japanese alumni, 37 Chinese alumni, 26 Filipinos, 16 Indians, and one Korean. By 1922, students also came from Java, the Malay States (Malaysia), Siam (Thailand), and the Straits Settlements (Singapore).
Beginning in the 1970s, the Asian population of Tompkins County began to grow, with people from China, Korea, and Japan. People came from India as well as from Southeast Asian countries, especially Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Tibetan refugees came, and in 1992, they established the Namgyal Monastery of Buddhist Studies, which brought the Dalai Lama to Ithaca. A monastery, Du Khor Choe Ling opened in 2004 in Danby. In the 1990's and 2000's Ithaca became home to a number of refugees from Myanmar (Burma) who re-settled in Ithaca.
President George H. W. Bush designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month on May 7, 1990, following the passage of Pub. L. 101-283 by Congress. This law also recognized the significance of May 7th and May 10th in the history of Asian and Pacific Islanders. May 7, 1843, is the date on which the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States, while on May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad in the United States was completed with significant contributions from Chinese pioneers. In 1992, Congress passed Pub.L.102-450, which permanently designated May of each year as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama arrives at the Ithaca Airport in 1979 during his first trip to the United States. Picture by Elaine Mansfield.
Pearl Buck worked on the third volume of the trilogy that she had begun with The Good Earth while living in Cayuga Heights in the early 1930s. First edition pictured, published in 1931, cover artist Matthew Louie.