Burks, Ardath W.

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Ardath Walter Burks was born May 1, 1915 in Covington, Kentucky to Alonzo Edwin Burks, an assistant freight agent for the C & O Railroad, and Clara Grace McCracken Burks. He married Virginia Jane Lyle Burks on November 15, 1941; their son, Stephen Riki Burks, was born in 1954.

Burks received his B. A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1939, his M. A. from the University of Minnesota in 1941, and his Ph.D. from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1949. However, World War II interrupted his progress towards his doctorate. He served as an Associate Economic Analyst for the Office of Naval Intelligence from 1941 to 1943. In 1943, upon obtaining a release from his deferment, Burks enlisted in the United States Navy. He pursued intensive language training through the Naval Training School (Oriental Languages) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he received his certification in Japanese on April 15, 1944, and then attended the Advanced Naval Intelligence School in New York City. Afterwards, he was commissioned as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the U. S. Naval Reserves, and served as a Language Officer throughout the remainder of the war. He was released from active duty in 1946, although he continued to serve as a civilian Air Intelligence Specialist until September.

Burks' career at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey commenced in 1948 when he joined the faculty as a professor of Political Science. He remained in this department, serving as its chairman from 1962 through 1965. In 1966 he accepted a position as a Visiting Professor for the East Asian Institute at Columbia University. He returned to Rutgers in the fall of 1966, moving into administrative duties as the Director of International Programs until 1973. In 1973 Burks joined the formal administration of Rutgers as the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. His efforts to establish a Department of Asian Studies culminated in his appointment as the first Professor of Asian Studies in 1977. He formally retired in 1981, and was subsequently recognized as a Professor Emeritus of Asian Studies.

During his academic career, Burks remained active in research and writing and made numerous research trips. Amongst other positions, he was a Research Associate and the Acting Field Director for the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies in Okayama (1952-1953); a Senior Research Fulbright Fellow for Humanistic Studies at Kyoto University (1958-1959); a recipient of the Ford Travel-Study Grant, representing Rutgers and acting as a liaison with Tokyo Metropolitan University (1962); a Resident Consultant of the International House of Japan, Inc., in Tokyo (1965); and a consultant for the Council on International Educational Exchange (1970, 1973).

Burks supported many endeavors related to Japanese studies, such as the Japan Society in New York and the International House of Japan in Tokyo. He was also heavily involved in the Association for Asian Studies, serving on its Board of Directors (1972-1975) and as the Chairman for the Northeast Asia Regional Council (1972-1973). He participated in the prestigious Columbia University Seminar on Modern East Asia: Japan, from its inception in 1963, serving as its chairman on two occasions: 1966-1967 and 1987-1988. From 1956 to 1964, Burks was the director of various summer institutes for secondary school teachers dedicated to raising interest in Asian Studies in pre-college students. The first of these institutes was held at the University of Delaware in 1956; later ones took place at Temple University, the University of Hawaii, and Rutgers University.

From the beginning of his tenure at Rutgers, Burks devoted his energies to reviving interest in Japan and renewing ties between Rutgers and Fukui University which had originated in the mid-nineteenth century. With his enthusiastic promotion and participation, Rutgers University and Fukui University built a collaborative relationship manifested in various activities such as: the formation of Rutgers-kai, the Rutgers Association of Fukui (1978); the establishment of the Griffis-Kusakabe Fund (1978); and the creation of a formal exchange program between Rutgers and Fukui University (1981). Burks also actively supported positive relations between the United States and Japan on local and national levels. Due in part to his enthusiasm, New Brunswick signed a Sister Cities agreement with the city of Fukui in 1982, and New Jersey entered into a sister state agreement with Fukui Prefecture in 1990. In 1982, Burks was recognized as an honorary citizen of Fukui.

Burks was in many ways responsible for promoting the William Elliot Griffis Collection, held by Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. The Griffis Collection documents the life of Griffis, who was one of the first oyatoi gaikokujin (foreign employees) serving in the Meiji government. Griffis was also involved in tutoring a number of ryûgakusei (overseas students) who studied at Rutgers in the mid to late nineteenth century. Burks' later research centered on the yatoi and ryûgakusei . He helped organize two major conferences on the yatoi, one at Rutgers in 1967 and one at Fukui University in 1985, which were attended by distinguished Asian Studies scholars from around the world. The proceedings of the 1967 conference were published as The Modernizers: Overseas Students, Foreign Employees, and Meiji Japan (Kindaika no suishintach; ryugakusei, oyatoi-gaikokujin to Meiji), and those of the 1985 conference as Foreign Employees in Nineteenth Century Japan (Za Yatoi) .

After retirement, Burks maintained his ties to Rutgers University and Fukui. He helped found Rutgers University Academy for Lifelong Learning (RU-ALL). He acted as a volunteer member of the Sister-Cities Committee of New Brunswick, and advised New Brunswick Mayor John Lynch as a member of a delegation from New Brunswick to Tokyo, Tsuruoka, Fukui, and Kyoto. Other volunteer positions held by Burks included being a consultant for Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives and a counselor for the Zimmerli Art Museum and International Center for Japonisme at Rutgers University. The Japanese government decorated him in 1990 with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.

Jane Lyle Burks died in 1991. Ardath Burks currently resides in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

From the guide to the Guide to the Ardath W. Burks Papers, 1928-1996, (Rutgers University Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Guide to the Ardath W. Burks Papers, 1928-1996 Rutgers University Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Inventory to the Records of the Rutgers University Dean of Student Affairs (Earle W. Clifford, Jr.), 1952-1973 Rutgers University. Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Rutgers University. Dean of Student Affairs. Records of the Rutgers University Dean of Student Affairs (Earle W. Clifford, Jr.), 1952-1973, 1963-1972 (bulk). Rutgers University
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Association of University Professors. corporateBody
associatedWith Association for Asian Studies. corporateBody
associatedWith Association for Asian Studies (AAS). corporateBody
associatedWith Burks, Jane Lyle (Virginia Jane Lyle). person
associatedWith Columbia University. Seminar on Modern East Asia. corporateBody
associatedWith Council on International Educational Exchange. corporateBody
associatedWith Fukui University. corporateBody
associatedWith Griffis, William Elliot, 1843-1928 person
associatedWith International House of Japan (Tokyo, Japan). corporateBody
associatedWith Kaneko, Tadashi, 1934- person
associatedWith Matsumura, Mayoshi person
associatedWith Mid-Atlantic Region AAS(MAR) corporateBody
associatedWith Miki, Yukiharu, 1903-1964 person
associatedWith New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities (NJACU). corporateBody
associatedWith Northeast Asian Council (Association for Asian Studies). corporateBody
associatedWith Northeast Asia Regional Council. corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers College corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers University. Academy for Lifelong Learning. corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers University. Dean of Student Affairs. corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers University Dean of Student Affairs, (Earle W. Clifford, Jr.) person
associatedWith Rutgers University. International Center for Japonisme. corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers University. Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers University. Rutgers Association of Fukui corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers University. Special Collections and University Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Shibata, Tokue, 1924- person
associatedWith Sister Cities International. corporateBody
associatedWith Tanabe, Tatsuz¯o, 1929- person
associatedWith Tokyo Metropolitan University corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Navy. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Office of Naval Intelligence. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Center for Japanese Studies in Okayama. corporateBody
associatedWith Yatoi Conference. corporateBody
associatedWith Yim, Yong Soon. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Japan--Politics and government--1868-
Japanese students--New Jersey--New Brunswick--History
Japan--Officials and employees, Alien
Japan--Politics and government--1945-
International education
Japan--History--Meiji period, 1868-1912
Japan--Civilization--Western Influenced
World War, 1939-1945


Birth 1916


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