Peter Seybolt Memorialby Erik Esselstrom, Director, UVM Asian Studies Program
Sadly, we said goodbye in 2012 to our dear friend, colleague and mentor, Peter J. Seybolt, who passed away on August 6 at age 77. A distinguished scholar of modern Chinese history, Peter spent his entire 38 year career at UVM and created both our interdisciplinary undergraduate Asian Studies Program and the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures. He also worked tirelessly for decades to expand opportunities for education about Asia for public school teachers and students throughout the state of Vermont.
Peter was a talented classroom teacher, as well as a highly conscientious and deeply valued university and departmental colleague. He served as Director of the Asian Studies Program and administrator of the Chinese and Japanese language programs throughout much of his career at UVM. His greatest legacy was undoubtedly the establishment of the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures. Peter took the initiative in bringing Chinese and Japanese language education to UVM, but for many years those courses were funded by grants he secured from outside sources such as the Freeman Foundation. With dogged determination for more than ten years beginning in the mid-1990s, Peter advocated for the creation of a formal department within which these essential language programs could be housed and supported. That vision finally came to fruition in 2007, and now more than 120 students pursue majors and minors in Chinese and Japanese at UVM. Peter’s efforts also secured numerous grants over the years in support of Asia-related events on campus, including the Claire M. Lintilhac Lecture in Asian Studies series and events sponsored by the Freeman Foundation. In addition, Asian Studies Program faculty members have benefitted greatly from support secured by Peter from the Paramitas Foundation to fund research travel and other types of professional development.
Peter also worked closely with his friend and colleague Wang Juefei from the late 1980s to establish and develop UVM’s Asian Studies Outreach Program, which received the 2003 Prize for Excellence in International Education from Goldman Sachs Foundation and the Asia Society. Today that program continues to assist in training public school teachers throughout the state in integrating Asia-related content into their classroom curriculum, as well as facilitating travel programs that take Vermont teachers to various parts of Asia every year. Upon his retirement from the university in 2007, Peter received the Robert V. Daniels Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Education at UVM in recognition of his decades of enthusiastic service to the institution and its students. The faculty members of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at UVM have also named the department’s annual honor presented to their best graduating senior the Peter Seybolt Academic Award.
Professor Seybolt is survived by Cynthia Taylor Seybolt, his wife of more than fifty years, their two children Taylor and Amy and their spouses, Susan Seybolt and John Tomasi, grandchildren Willa, Potter and Reed Seybolt and Peter and Lydia Tomasi, and sisters Gail Bain and Janice Theron. Earlier this year the Seybolt family established a memorial fund in Peter’s name intended to support Asian Studies Program faculty research for many years to come. Donations in honor of Peter’s memory may be made to ‘The Peter J. Seybolt Fund for Faculty in Asian Studies’ c/o The University of Vermont Foundation, 411 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401, (802) 656-2010.
Last modified February 27 2013 12:14 PM