Pei-heng Chiang, a professor emerita of political science at Castleton State College in Vermont, was appointed in 1968 as Castleton’s first full-time political scientist. Regarded as one of its finest and most memorable teachers, she was known for her high standards and low grades and was beloved by students who stuck with her. Many others remember her as well for her annual field trips to the United Nations and the many prominent scholars and public figures she invited to campus.
Born October 21, 1929, Pei-heng grew up in a revolutionary and war-torn China. In 1947, her father, Gen. Chiang Ting-wen, settled his family in Great Neck, N.Y, and then returned to defend a sinking nationalist regime. Meanwhile, Pei-heng graduated from Great Neck High School and went on to Rochester, receiving her B.A. in government and history. After a three-year visit with her parents in Taiwan, where she taught English and western civilization at Soochow University and served as the ministry of education’s liaison with UNESCO, she returned to New York for graduate study at the New School for Social Research.
Her doctoral dissertation, Non-Governmental Organizations at the United Nations, was published by Praeger in 1981 and praised as “the state-of-the-art work in her field,” traversing the traditional boundaries of political philosophy and international relations. Her preface pays tribute to “certain teachers and colleagues” who “continue to encourage me and inspire my endeavors,” citing the New School’s Eric Hula, Howard B. White, and Hannah Arendt, as well as Rochester’s Glenn G. Wiltsey, William E. Diez, and Herbert Rollin Childs.
I could see how pivotal had been her years at Rochester when we attended a history conference the University hosted in 1999. She showed me her dormitory and dining hall, the library, the Eastman School, and Dr. Wiltsey’s home, where she had attended his seminars and teas—an example she emulated at Castleton by founding the nonpartisan Political Discussion Group which regularly met to discuss books, articles, and political issues and sponsored many trips and campus events.
After retiring from Castleton in 2000, Pei-heng visited mainland China for the first time since she’d left it in 1947. Last winter, while planning another visit, she suffered a fatal stroke and died January 3, 2008.
Especially treasured among her many Rochester memories were those classmates who befriended her in a new world: Fay Yung Loo ’49; Minnie Young Hwang ’51; Lulu Zau Kuo ’49E (MA); Rita Louise Childs ’50; Joan Mary Asher Henley ’52; and Margaret Louise Wilson Lamy ’51. Undoubtedly there are others; but these are ones I know have been with her as she has graced this world beyond measure.
—Elizabeth Stevens Sumner
Sumner is a retired professor of history at Castleton State College.
Editor’s note: This an expanded version of the tribute that appeared in the March-April 2009 issue of Rochester Review. This version also corrects the date of Chiang’s death.