Herbert Bix reflects on academic career

Histoty/sociology professor Herbert Box, seen here giving a lecture in November, is retiring after 13 years at Binghamton University.

By Ethan Day| DECEMBER 17, 2012

Binghamton University is the final teaching post for Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herbert P. Bix. The professor of history and sociology, 74, will retire at the end of the fall 2012 semester, following a remarkable career studying 19th- and 20th-century Japan, and Japan-U.S. relations.

Bix’s career accomplishments include winning the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001; receiving the United States-Japan Educational Commission Research award – a Fulbright grant – to conduct research in Japan from December 1992 through July 1993; and winning the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2001 for his book “Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.”

His interest in Japan and East Asian history began early in life, well before the longtime professor began his undergraduate work.

“Before I left for college at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, I had read a book in my local school library about Japanese soldiers and Chinese comfort women that was of great interest to me,” he says. “Also, I think a person born in 1938, growing up in a working class community, would naturally be interested in World War II and Japan.”

After attending the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Bix joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and served a tour of duty aboard ships stationed in Japan. He then attended Harvard University at the height of the Vietnam War.

“I remember the summer of 1965 at Columbia, taking part in anti-war demonstrations where we were pelted with things,” Bix says. “Later in Fall 1966 we got on the busses and headed off to Washington for the protests. I remember going with a friend to the airport in Washington to greet a famous Japanese writer, and we were so surprised because he got off the plane carrying a gas mask, so he knew what was about to happen!”

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