Photo of Daniel Kwok

Daniel W. Y. Kwok was born in Shanghai, China, in 1932. His father, Tak-Wah Kwok, was an official in the Republic of China’s Shanghai Foreign Office during the turbulent years before the Communist takeover. His father studied political science at the University of Washington, Harvard, and Cambridge. His mother, Grace Wong, came from a Shanghai Episcopalian family and was educated at Oberlin College and the New England Conservatory of Music and performed as a concert pianist before marriage. Since his father’s work focused on the defense of Shanghai, the family was acutely aware of the social and political issues of the times and of the impending disaster. In the 1930s, they travelled often to Hong Kong and the interiors of China.

Daniel left Hong Kong to attend Brown University (BA 1954, History), where he met his wife Nancy Campbell Kwok (Pembroke, BA 1954, French Literature). He then attended Yale University where he earned an MA in Far Eastern Studies (1956) and a PhD in History (1959). He was a lecturer at Yale from 1957–1959, during which time he and Nancy brought their two children, Alison and Theodore, into the world. At Knox College (1959–1961) he introduced new courses on Asia. During these early years his homesickness for China led him to a lifelong interest, in experimenting and cooking Chinese food, to achieve just the right tastes from his childhood memories.

After joining the faculty at the University of Hawai‘i in 1961, his research and teaching focused on Chinese scientism, populism, and Ming-Qing thought. He believed in the importance of both undergraduate and graduate education and regularly taught large core curriculum courses such as World Civilization, as well as smaller seminars to thousands of students. He taught and mentored hundreds of graduate students, who are now leaders and teachers in numerous countries and institutions across the globe, many of whom remain in touch with him.

Eager to spread interest in and knowledge of all facets of China, in 1978 he launched the China Seminar, which combined serious discussion of a wide range of topics followed by superb food. Over the forty plus years, more than 250 speakers have delivered over 350 presentations on a wide range of topics — history, culture, politics, economics, art, theater, music, food, technology, intellectual property, law, and medicine.

Aware of the crucial role journalists play in informing the public about Asia, he created and supervised a fellowships program for mid-career journalists established at the University of Hawaiʻi in 1974. The 160 graduates of the program can be found on many major US newspapers and virtually every US news bureau in East Asia.

Daniel’s professional endeavors were enriched by personal engagement. He and Nancy cultivated a global network of colleagues, journalists, and community members through travel, cultural activities, arts events, and, perhaps most of all, through all manners of cuisine. Their at-home jiaozi parties (rolling dough, filling, teaching how-to-fold) were legendary, and being invited to dine with Professor Kwok at local Hawaii restaurants is a treasured memory for anyone fortunate enough to be included.

Daniel retired in 1997 and resides in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. He enjoys his family, especially his grandchildren Anne and Alisa, friends, the delights of life, and correspondence with many journalists and former students.