Lecture and new student award mark Asian Heritage Month

James Endicott (1898-1993) was a Canadian missionary in China who was condemned in this country for his political activities during the Chinese civil war and the early years of the People’s Republic of China.

His son, York Professor Emeritus Stephen Endicott, delivered the inaugural Asian Heritage Month Lecture at York University on June 3 at Osgoode Hall Law School, speaking about his father’s epic and often controversial life in an address, titled "When China Stood Up: The Experience of Dr. James Gareth Endicott". The event was hosted by Canadian Senator Vivienne Poy, patron of the Asian Heritage Month-Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc.

Right: Vivienne Poy Asian Research Award recipient Doris Ha-Lin Sung (left) and Senator Vivienne Poy

James Endicott was born in China’s Sichuan province (the area struck by a catastrophic earthquake earlier this year) where his father was a Methodist missionary. After serving in the First World War with Canada, James Endicott returned to China in 1925 with his wife, and as an ordained minister spent more than two decades as a missionary. He served as a preacher and relief worker during Japanese bombing attacks, and professor of English and ethics at West China Union University.

As a member of the United States secret military intelligence unit from 1944 to 1945, he came to respect the Chinese Communists and spent the next 23 years as head of the Canadian Peace Congress, advocating recognition of the People’s Republic and promoting world peace and disarmament. In this role, he was often the centre of public controversy, earning a reprimand and censorship by the United Church and narrowly ducking a treason charge by the Canadian government.

In 1982, the General Council of the United Church offered an apology and the next year, York University awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Left: Senator Vivienne Poy (left) and Susan Henders

The premiere of "Dragonfly: Scenes from a Screenplay on Dr. James Endicott", followed the lecture by Stephen Endicott. The screenplay, written by York Professor Emeritus Robert Fothergill, engaged the audience in the complicated life of James Endicott, played by renowned Canadian actor R.H. Thomson, and the political, religious and moral dilemmas he faced.

"I hope this will be the first of many such events held at York University," Senator Poy said of the lecture and screenplay reading.

Right: Senator Vivienne Poy (left) and Stephen Endicott

The inaugural Asian Heritage Month Lecture at York was presented by the Asian Heritage Month-Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc. and the York Centre for Asian Research. The centre brings together more than 90 researchers from 30 disciplines who study Asia and Asian diasporas.

The evening also included the awarding of the first Vivienne Poy Asian Research Award to Doris Ha-Lin Sung, a York doctoral candidate in social and political thought. The award supports students enrolled in the Graduate Diploma in Asian Studies at York’s Centre for Asian Research. "Fostering the next generation of Asian specialists is one of the main things we do at the centre and scholarships like the Vivienne Poy Research Award are vital to achieving that goal," said centre director Susan Henders.

The senator’s generous establishment of the Vivienne Poy Asian Research Award is part of York University’s $200-million York to the Power of 50 fundraising campaign.