Dr. Richard Bohr

Richard Bohr teaching.JPG

Dr. Bohr teaching

Dr. Richard Bohr, an Overview

Dr. Richard Bohr came to CSB+SJU in 1994, where he a professor of history until his retirement in 2015. Bohr received his B.A. from the University of California-Davis in 1967, his M.A. from Harvard University in 1968, his M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School in 1971, and his Ph.D. from the University of California-Davis in 1978. Bohr devoted his entire career to strengthening the West’s ties with the East. In the early 1970s, Bohr taught at Diocesan Boys School in Hong Kong. From 1980 to 1987, he served as President and Executive Director of the Midwest China Center, a coalition of several dozen colleges, universities, foundations, and corporations as well as civic, religious, community, and arts organizations. While serving as director, Bohr came to CSB+SJU to give a lecture on January 21, 1986, “International Trade: From the Silk Road to Grain Exchange.” The development of programs at the Midwest China Center under Bohr’s direction led to expanded relationships between the American Midwest and China. From 1988 to 1991, he served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Trade Office, where he helped Minnesota companies become active in international trade. From 1991-1992, Bohr served as the Director of Padilla Speer Beardsley International, responsible for developing programs and services in intercultural communication with Asia.

Bohr at CSB+SJU

Dr. Bohr came to the CSB+SJU campus in 1994 as an associate professor in the History department. He served as an advisor to the Asian Student Association (ASA), which was created in 1993. At their third annual Chinese New Year celebration, Bohr was one of the faculty members to receive an award for his contributions. In 1999, he was given the Service Before Self award at the Chinese New Year Celebration. In 2000, ASA would not be hosting a New Year, as the club was working to establish a new constitution along with their advisors, one of whom was Bohr. In 2001, the celebration returned with the theme, “Entering the Ring of Fire: Welcome to the Pacific Century.” In an interview at the time Bohr said, "This provides a wonderful opportunity for the East and West to forge a common future together."

In 1969, CSB+SJU, along with St. Cloud State University, created East Asian Area Studies major and minor programs. The programs were established through the Hill and Northwestern Foundations' grants. The grants were not renewed, so the major and minor were discontinued in 1978.

On September 8, 1994, a proposal to create a new East Asian Minor was made by Bohr, along with Sister Baulu Kuan, OSB, and Sister Carol Berg, OSB to the subcommittee on New Course and Core Designation for CSB+SJU. The goal was to utilize existing faculty and courses and condense them to make a minor possible. The courses were interdisciplinary and mainly focused on history, but there were a few courses with concentrations in art, government, language, and philosophy. The courses would also teach East and Southeast Asian traditions. There would be two tracks within the minor. In track I, 6 courses would be required. This would be for students who are not taking Chinese or Japanese to fulfill their language requirements. Track II would require 7 courses, including three semesters of Japanese or Chinese. This track was intended for students who wanted to take their studies further in graduate school or professional careers in East Asia. The minor would require an independent senior learning project. The program would work with Asian speakers brought to campus and the study abroad program, to expand professionally as well as intellectually. The East Asian minor was implemented in the Fall of 1996. Bohr became the director and held the position until the spring of 2014. Sophia Geng then became the second director of the East Asian Studies Program in the fall of 2014. In the 1996-1997 academic year, Bohr received an advising award for outstanding work in advising students.

In the summer of 1997, Bohr and five other faculty members went on a tour of China, Japan, and Taiwan to collect content for 13 courses on Asia being taught in the 1997-1998 academic year. In 2010, an Asian Studies major was approved. 

The Asian Studies Learning Community (ASLC) was established in 2000, with funding from the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation. Bohr was a co-director along with Dr. Dave Bennetts. The ASLC was made to combine in-class learning with out-of-class learning. The last mention of the ASLC was in the February 2006 Community Newsletter, in which the ASLC was credited with co-hosting the 2006 Asian New Year along with the CSB+SJU Asia Club. 

Bohr was on the board for the ASIANetwork from 2000-2003. ASIANetwork is a coalition of 150 US liberal arts colleges that maintain an Asian Studies Program, of which CSB+SJU is a member. In 2004 Bohr was named the vice chair of the board of directors of ASIANetwork. According to Bohr, CSB+SJU’s Asian Studies Program served as a national model among liberal arts colleges for its dual emphasis on academic and practical preparation. On April 22, 2005, Bohr became the Chair of the Board of Directors (until 2006). Additionally, in 2005, Bohr led a summer research trip to China’s Pearl River Delta, funded by the Department of education’s Fulbright-Hayes Grant Program for ASIANetwork faculty.

In 2004, the partnership between Lingnan Normal University (LNU) and CSB+SJU was strengthened as Bohr and the SJU Hong Kong Alumni Chapter worked to establish a Hong Kong/China May Term at LNU. The first “Economic Development and Social Change in China” tour was led by Bohr. Bohr received an honorary degree from LNU in 2004, making him the first American to be given this honor. According to the citation, he received the award for his lifetime of scholarship and “bridge-building” efforts to promote Sino-U.S. relations.

Panels and Publications

In 1998, Bohr moderated one of the three panels at the Midwest conference series on U.S.-China relations sponsored by the American Assembly. Discussions were on how to strengthen the U.S.’s trade relationship with China. Bohr moderated the panel and helped draft the final report.

Bohr made appearances on quite a few PBS documentaries. Bohr and Abbott Timothy were in The Fate of Christianity in the Marist People’s Republic of China (1999). Additionally, in 1999, Bohr was a consultant and commentator on the PBS documentary China at 50, which showed China under 50 years of communism.

Bohr was a guest on Minnesota’s Public Radio (MPR) many times. In 1999, he was interviewed by MPR’s Midday about the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He was also on Midday on November 16, 1999 to talked about the impact of the U.S.-China trade pact on China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. In 2000, he provided commentary for MPR’s live coverage of Bill Clinton’s visit to a Minnesota farm. Clinton used this visit to urge congress to establish a Permanent Normal Trade Relationship with China. Bohr was a guest again on Midday on November 8, 2005. His speech was on “Building Ties with China.”

In 1999, some of the articles Bohr wrote on the Taiping Rebellion were collected and added to an upcoming book that would examine the role of religion in inspiring and organizing the Taiping Rebellion. Some of the articles were coming from journals such as Tradition and Metamorphosis in Modern Chinese History, The Congressional Quarterly’s Encyclopedia of Political Revolutions, and Christianity in Chinese History: A Handbook.

Lynda Fish (CSB+SJU academic advisor to international students) and professors Dave Bennetts and Bohr, co-directors of the Asian Studies Learning Community, presented a panel, “From Asian Studies to Asia Hands: Placing Graduates in Asian Teaching Jobs” at the 11th annual ASIANetwork conference in South Carolina, April 11-13, 2003. And in 2004, the three published “The Teaching in Asia Program at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University” in ASIANetwork Exchange, A Newsletter for Teaching About Asia.

In November 2001, Bohr had an article featured in the Asian American Press. The article, “Saint John’s to Host Asian Education Workshop,” focused on the residency of Lee Pao Xiong, President and CEO of the Urban Coalition at CSB+SJU.

In 2006, Bohr spoke at the “Kingdom of God, Pure Land, and the Human World: The International Conference on Buddhist-Christian Dialogue,” sponsored by the Chinese University of Hong Kong from October 17-21. Bohr presented his paper, “The Kingdom of God in China: Mapping the Taiping Millennial Vision.” The conference was about religion in China, and was a major event, since religion had until recently been a taboo topic in China.

Bohr was a speaker at the Minnesota-China Business Opportunity Conference (MCBOC) in 2010. MCBOC was founded in 2009 at SJU. Clement Dai (SJU ’12), from Shanghai, China, was one of the co-founders and served as president. Bohr served as an advisor to the group. It was created to inform people of Minnesota’s connection to China, especially since Minnesota accounted for 1/3 of trade between the U.S. and China in 2012.

China in the Classroom
Dr. Richard Bohr