Wm. Theodore de Bary

William Theodore "Ted" de Bary (Chinese: 狄培理; pinyin: Dí Péilǐ; August 9, 1919 – July 14, 2017) was an American Sinologist and East Asian literary scholar who was a professor and administrator at Columbia University for nearly 70 years.

De Bary graduated from Columbia College in 1941, where he was a student in the first year of Columbia's famed Literature Humanities course. He then briefly took up graduate studies at Harvard University before the US entered World War II. De Bary left the academy to serve in American military intelligence in the Pacific Theatre. Upon his return, he resumed his studies at Columbia, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1953.

He edited numerous books of original source material relating to East Asian (primarily Japanese and Chinese) literature, history, and culture, as well as making the case, in his book Nobility and Civility, for the universality of Asian values. He is recognized as essentially creating the field of Neo-Confucian studies.

William Theodore "Ted" de Bary was born on August 9, 1919, in The Bronx, New York, and grew up in Leonia, New Jersey. De Bary's great-uncle was the German surgeon and botanist Anton de Bary, and his father William de Bary (1882–1963) immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1914. His parents divorced when he was a small child, and his mother raised him as a single mother. He formally changed his first name to "Wm." to distinguish himself from his father.[1] He entered Columbia University as an undergraduate student in 1937, and began studying Chinese the following year as a sophomore. After graduating in 1941, de Bary began graduate study in Chinese at Harvard University, but the following year he was recruited by the U.S. Navy to undergo intensive training in Japanese and serve as an intelligence officer in the Pacific Theatre of World War II.

In 1947, de Bary left the military and returned to Columbia for graduate study in Chinese. He received an M.A. in 1948 followed by a Ph.D. in 1953 with a dissertation entitled "A Plan for the Prince: the Ming-i tai-fang lu of Huang Tsung-hsi", and became a professor immediately afterward. De Bary was active in faculty intervention during the Columbia University protests of 1968 and served as the university's provost from 1971 to 1978. He has attempted to reshape the Core Curriculum of Columbia College to include Great Books and classes devoted to non-Western civilizations. De Bary is additionally famous for rarely missing a Columbia Lions football game since he began teaching at the university in 1953. A recognized educator, he won Columbia's Great Teacher Award in 1969, its Lionel Trilling Book Award in 1983 and its Mark Van Doren Award for Great Teaching in 1987. In 2010 he received the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement.

De Bary served as the director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities and continued teaching until several months before his death in 2017 at age 97.