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Nelson I. Wu, professor emeritus, 82
By Liam Otten
Nelson Ikon Wu, Ph.D., an internationally recognized scholar of Asian art and architecture, died Tuesday, March 19, 2002, of cancer at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Brookline, Mass. He was 82.
Wu, the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of the History of Art and Chinese Culture in Arts & Sciences, came to the University in 1965, becoming a key figure for the promotion of Asian art in St. Louis and, in 1971, a founder of the Asian Art Society. He was named professor emeritus in 1984.
Additionally, Wu was a best-selling author in China and Taiwan, writing under the pen name Lu Ch'iao. His novel Song Never to End (1958), about the friendships between four young people during the Second Sino-Japanese War, has sold more than 500,000 copies and in 1991 was voted most influential book of the 1950s by readers of the Taiwan-based newspaper China Times, the nation's largest daily.
"Nelson was an extremely charismatic figure with a large following on campus and in St. Louis," said Mark S. Weil, Ph.D., the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts and director the Gallery of Art. "Every year around Christmas, he would give a lecture celebrating Pan-Asian spirituality that filled Steinberg Auditorium."
Born June 9, 1919, in Peking, Wu earned a bachelor's degree from the National Southwest Associated University in Kunming in 1942 and came to the United States in 1945. He attended the New School for Social Research in New York before earning both a master's and doctorate in art history from Yale University, in 1949 and 1954, respectively.
While at Yale, Wu met the former Mu-lien Hsueh, a Wellesley College graduate also born in Peking. The couple wed in 1951.
Wu taught at Yale, San Francisco State College and Koyoto University in Japan before coming to St. Louis.
His many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright Research Scholarship. In 1998, Washington University and the Saint Louis Art Museum inaugurated the annual Nelson I. Wu Lecture on Asian Art and Culture.
Wu is survived by Mu-lien and four children -- daughter Chao-ting and sons Chao-ming, Chao-ping and Chao-ying.
A small family service was held March 22. Memorial contributions may be made to the Washington University East Asian Library Nelson I. Wu Memorial Book Fund, Campus Box 1061.