The Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Celebrates its 20th
Anniversary with the Freeman family from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 24.
Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Celebrates 20 Years
What began in an empty, shingle-style home on the edge of campus 20 years
ago has prospered into a central hub for East-Asian-focused lectures, tea
ceremonies, exhibitions, student performances, and programs to introduce
school-aged children to new cultures.
This year, the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies celebrates
two decades of existence. Wesleyan will honor the Freeman family for their
unique legacy of excellence during an open house and reception May 24.
“The Freeman Center is one-of-a-kind in this country,” explains Vera
Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor o East Asian Studies, professor
and chair of East Asian studies and director of the Freeman Center for East
Asian Studies. “The Freeman family has enabled us to become a central focus
of learning activity for Wesleyan and the larger community through out
Schwarcz’s friendship with the Freeman family dates back to the late 1970s,
when she and Mansfield Freeman ’16 brainstormed the idea of creating a
small-scale academic program centered on language and history. Freeman had
lived in China around 1920, and had developed a deep interest in U.S. and
East Asian relations.
“Mr. Freeman believed that in the past, this country had frequently
blundered in its relations with Far Eastern peoples,” Schwarcz recalls.
“This arose from a lack of understanding of the feelings and attributes of
people who spoke a different language and had been nurtured under
philosophies different from ours.”
By the mid 1980s, Freeman already established the Mansfield Freeman Fund,
the Annual Freeman Lecture and a scholarship for summer language study at
Wesleyan. In 1986-87, he donated additional funds, which led to the
establishment of the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.
Located at 343 Washington Terrace, The Freeman Center was renovated to
include office space, an exhibition gallery, a research library, seminar
room and reading room. The space quickly became host to lectures, programs
and events, archival collections and exhibits. A Japanese garden and tearoom
were added in the mid-1990s.
Most importantly, the Freeman Center also is the home of the undergraduate
academic program focused on the study of China, Japan and Korea.
“The Mansfield Center is a big draw, and it attracts students from all over
the world to Wesleyan,” Schwarcz says. “Students want to come here, and we
get the best of the best.”
Mansfield Freeman’s son, Houghton “Buck” Freeman ’43, was raised in China
and fought in World War II in Fu Chow, China against the Japanese.
Throughout his life, he became heavily involved in Chinese and Japanese
economics, and like his father, he too made an extraordinary commitment to
the Freeman Center. With additional support by Buck Freeman’s wife, Doreen,
Hon. ’03 and his son, Graeme Freeman ’77— the East Asian Studies Program has
blossomed to a center of cultural inquiry.
In 2006, the center received a new west wing addition dedicated to the
memory of Mansfield Freeman’s wife, Mary Houghton Freeman. This space, which
overlooks the Freeman Family Japanese Garden, is used for luncheons,
programs, performances, lectures and classes.
“Through the center, we have galvanized interest in East Asian culture at a
time of growing concern with international education in relation to
improving global understanding,” Schwarcz says. “Two decades after
inaugurating the Mansfield Freeman Center, we are finally able to truly
honor our founder’s vision of mutual understanding between United States and
The open house and reception will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 24
at the Center for East Asian Studies. A colorful, photograph-rich booklet on
the 20-year Freeman legacy will distributed at the event.
A complete timeline of the Mansfield Freeman Center is online at
By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor