Frank B. Gibney, 81, One of the Nation's Preeminent Experts on Asia and President of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, Has Died
Frank Gibney, one of America's foremost experts on Asia and Asia Pacific affairs and editor of The Pacific Century, died on April 9, at his home in Santa Barbara, at the age of 81.
President of the Pacific Basin Institute and a professor of politics at Pomona College, in Claremont, Calif., Gibney spent most of his life attempting to bridge the gap between Americans and the countries and cultures of East Asia. He first visited Asia as a lieutenant in U.S. Naval Intelligence stationed in Japan during World War II and returned to Japan in 1949 as Time-Life's bureau chief, rising to prominence covering the Korean War. He remained in Asia where he did extensive reporting in Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.
Gibney later served as an editor of Time, a senior features editor of Newsweek and an editorial writer for Life magazine. After joining the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1966, he spent 10 years in charge of Britannica’s business and editorial operations in East Asia. He founded and edited the Japanese-language Britannica (completed in 1975) and later editions of the encyclopedia in Chinese and Korean.
A prolific writer, Gibney was the author of 11 books from Five Gentlemen of Japan (1953) to Korea’s Quiet Revolution (1992) and The Battle for Okinawa (1995). His major work, The Pacific Century (1992) was the capstone of the award-winning PBS television series of that name, where he served as chief editor. The program aired in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, as well as the U.S. He was also a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, most recently writing about Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, in September 2005.
Active in public service, Gibney served as a chief consultant to the House of Representatives Committee on Space and Aeronautics, a White House speechwriter for President Johnson, and a vice chairman of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission.
In 1976, the Japanese government awarded Gibney the Order of the Rising Sun, Third Class, for his work in cultural affairs. The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Second Class, followed a few years later.
Fluent in Japanese, Professor Gibney co-founded the Pacific Basin Institute in 1979 to further understanding, on both sides of the Pacific, of the tremendous importance of their relationship and their shared responsibilities. In 1997, the Institute moved to Pomona College, where its unique Asia/Pacific film archive, production facilities and public events play an important role in the life and academic activities of the college and community.
"Frank Gibney was a remarkable and rare person," says Hans Palmer, vice president of the Pacific Basin Institute and professor of economics at Pomona College. "As an expert on Asia and a journalist extraordinaire, he helped define much of our thinking about the peoples and cultures of the Pacific Basin. He believed that we all share a common reality and that we all would share a common future for which we need to prepare. His humor was infectious, and his humanity was all encompassing. He will be sorely missed."
He is survived by his third wife, Hiroko Doi, of Santa Barbara, and seven children: Alex Gibney, of Summit, New Jersey; Margot Gibney, of Oakland, CA; Frank Gibney Jr. of Brooklyn, New York; James Gibney, of New York City; Thomas Gibney, of Placerville, CA; Elise Gibney, of Eagle Rock, CA and Josephine Gibney of Los Angeles; and seven grandchildren.