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History of Pacific Basin Institute

Since coming to Pomona, PBI has been a prime mover in the college’s programs in Asian Studies. Beginning with the Spring 2003 Semester, PBI, working closely with Asian Studies faculty, serves as sponsor and programmer for Asian Studies meetings, conferences and workshops. The Institute has also been active in Latin American Studies programs, recognizing the importance of the South and Central American nations on the eastern Pacific. Wherever possible, PBI has collaborated with other faculty departments in programs connected with their disciplines. A Faculty Steering Committee meets regularly to discuss ways and means of enlisting PBI’s support for various joint activities as well as integrating PBI in existing faculty programs. It is one of the Institute’s primary goals to stimulate and extend student interest in Asian societies and cultures. PBI’s active student intern program is a part of this effort – and students working in the Archive receive valuable hands-on training in film editing, cataloguing and production.

Pomona’s undergraduate Asian Studies, Japanese and Chinese departments are among the best in the United States and the oldest; an Oriental Studies Department was founded in 1936. Pomona’s faculty with Asian interests - 23 out of a total faculty of 161 - represents an extraordinary wealth of talent, covering China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Nepal and Pakistan. This network of faculty colleagues provides the PBI staff with informed advice, assists in the planning and execution of PBI-sponsored events and serves as in-house consultants for PBI’s ongoing projects. Pomona students are deeply interested in Asia. Some 23 percent of the student body are Asian-Americans or Asians. They can choose from 69 courses on Asian subjects, including extensive language instruction in Chinese and Japanese. They also enjoy access to the academic resources of the other six institutions in the Claremont College consortium.

In return, the Pacific Basin Institute offers faculty and students at Pomona and the other Claremont Colleges an extra set of windows on the Pacific Basin countries in East Asia and Latin America. Founded at Santa Barbara in 1979 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation by Frank Gibney, then Vice Chairman of Encyclopedia Britannica’s Board of Editors, the Institute was one of the first research and policy groups to deal with the entire region, as opposed to concentrating on individual countries or national groups. It moved to Pomona College in 1997. PBI’s success over the years as producer and organizer of conferences, TV and film documentaries, lectures and scholarly exchanges makes available to Pomona faculty an array of contacts among government officials, scholars, authors, creative artists and business leaders throughout the region. 


PBI's Mission

The dynamic growth of the Asia/Pacific countries over the past 60 years permanently altered the culture and power balances of the 20th Century. Their achievements – and equally their failings – affect everyone in the globalist 21st. Understandably, Americans and our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere have been slow to catch up on our knowledge of these old/new polities and their history. Yet even within the Asia/Pacific countries –thanks to strong, time-resistant national cultures and traditions – scholars, politicians and citizens have not troubled overmuch to learn about their neighbors. The Pacific Basin Institute, as our name implies, attempts through a variety of media to present all these countries – ourselves included – as interdependent parts of a vast region where technology’s spread has canceled the past isolations of geography. We put a heavy emphasis on film and video material – both production and presentation. And while we naturally focus on single countries in some of our programs, we are happiest comparing and contrasting – in the process outlining common denominators as well as differences among the various cultures. PBI's large film and video Archive is always at the service of Pomona’s students and faculty for research and course materials, as well as the resources of its scholarly publishing program. Visit the Archive

Frank Gibney: 1924-2006

Frank B. Gibney

Frank B. Gibney, the late founder and president of Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, spent most of his life attempting to bridge the gap between Americans and the countries and cultures of East Asia.  He died on April 9, 2006 at his home in Santa Barbara, at the age of 81. 

Gibney 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, listed as follows: Five Gentlemen of Japan (1953), Farrar, Straus & Young; The Frozen Revolution (1959), Farrar, Straus & Cudahy; The Secret World (with Peter Deriabin) (1960), Doubleday; The Operators (1961), Harper & Row; Krushchev Pattern (1961), Duell, Sloan & Pearce; The Penkovskiy Papers (Editor) (1965), Doubleday; The Reluctant Space-Farers (1965); Japan, the Fragile Super-Power (1975), Norton; (revised 1986), New American Library; (1996), Tuttle, 3rd Edition; Miracle by Design (1983), Times Books; Korea's Quiet Revolution (1992), Walker and Company; The Pacific Century (1992), Scribner's, Kodansha; Senso (1995), M.E. Sharpe; The Battle of Okinawa (with Colonel Hiromichi Yahara) (1995), John Wiley & Sons; Unlocking the Bureaucrat's Kingdom (1998), The Brookings Institution; The Nanjin Massacre (Editor) (1999), M.E. Sharpe. 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.