You are here

Talking Points, Dec. 20 - 31, 2010

We remember Houghton "Buck" Freeman. He had a distinguished business career and was a visionary philanthropist. The Freeman Foundation has supported the USC US-China Institute since its founding. As always, the newsletter includes information about China-centered events across North America.
December 19, 2010

Talking Points
December 20 - 31, 2010


Doreen and Houghton Freeman, photo by Paul Rogers, Stowe, Vermont

Houghton “Buck” Freeman passed away earlier this month. He was 89 years old. Few people have done as much as Freeman to promote increased understanding of Asia among Americans.


Under Houghton's leadership, the Freeman Foundation has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support a wide range of East Asia-centered teacher training programs, undergraduate programs, student exchange initiatives, curriculum development and education publications, museum programs, and public broadcasting news coverage of Asia. This fall more than six

Joe Chan joins students at Dandelion Middle School (Beijing, 2010); Kyle Moody sketches a new friend at a private retirement home (Xi'an, 2006), both traveled to China in Freeman-sponsored NCTA California study tours.



million American secondary students are studying with teachers trained through Freeman Foundation-funded seminars and workshops. Thousands of university students have gone to Asia to study or work through Freeman-funded programs. Hundreds of Asian students and scholars have come to the United States to study or teach. Everyday millions of people hear or watch news reports from Asia made possible by grants the Foundation has provided. Freeman oversaw all these efforts as well as a host of cultural site restoration efforts in Asia and environmental preservation in the United States.

The Freeman Foundation was launched with funds from the estate of Mansfield Freeman, Houghton’s father. Doreen, Houghton’s wife of 62 years, serves as a trustee. Graeme, their son, is the Foundation’s executive director. The family’s commitment to promoting Asian studies and facilitating exchanges with Asia stems from its own deep experience in the region and a concern that Americans simply don’t know enough about Asia to understand it well.

Houghton Freeman was born in Beijing in 1921. His parents were there because Mansfield was teaching at Tsinghua University. Mansfield developed a strong interest in Chinese philosophy and eventually published translations of important texts. By chance he mentored a group of students who won a summer life insurance-selling contest. This resulted in C.V. Starr recruiting him to his young Shanghai-based firm: American International Underwriters. AIU would grow into American International Group (AIG), the world’s largest insurance company. Mansfield and, later, his son Houghton would help build the firm that until this year was the largest American company born outside the United States.



Shanghai Community Church (lower photo by Ann Shen, Creative Commons)
Top of the AIA building on Shanghai's famous bund. AIA, AIG's Asia unit, was spun off as an independent company earlier this year.

The Freemans were joined in Shanghai by Houghton’s grandparents. His grandfather Luther joined with others to create the Shanghai Community Church, which still houses the city’s largest Protestant congregation. Houghton attended Shanghai International School and Wesleyan University, where he was a star soccer player. His studies were interrupted by World War II. Already fluent in Chinese, Freeman graduated from the Navy’s Japanese language school and served mainly in China, first in the wartime capital of Chongqing and then running an intelligence operation out of Fuzhou. When the war ended, he completed his degree at Wesleyan and began working for AIU, at first in London where he met his wife, Doreen.

The newlyweds then went to China where their daughter Linda was born and where the Communists would soon seize power. In 1997, Freeman told BusinessWeek, "We thought we could do business with the Communists. We were wrong." The young family moved to Tokyo in late 1949. Their son, Graeme, was born there. Freeman became president of AIU Japan in 1956 and the family remained in Japan until the 1970s when he moved to AIG headquarters in New York. He served as AIG’s president and chief operating officer from 1983 until his 1993 retirement. Among his achievements during this period was helping get AIG reestablished in China, a project that took thirteen years. After retiring Freeman devoted the bulk of his energies to leading the newly established Foundation.

Here at USC, we are grateful for Freeman’s steadfast support of the USC U.S.-China Institute's teacher training program (part of the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia), the Career Center's Asia internship program, and the East Asian Studies Center's global East Asia program. Through these ongoing Foundation-backed initiatives teachers and students have gained expertise on Asia, often through direct experience in Asia.


Freeman funds have done much to reduce America’s “knowledge deficit” on Asia, but Freeman support has always meant much more than just financial resources. Houghton Freeman and his family have been key mentors and energetic promoters. Their advice and encouragement has been invaluable.

The Freeman Foundation has also been a key supporter of efforts to restore and preserve Asia’s cultural heritage. Prominent projects include Juanqinzhai 倦勤斋 (Studio of Exhaustion From Diligent Service), a remarkable 18th century structure the Qianlong emperor had built as part of his retirement residence within the Forbidden City and the Chongqing residence/headquarters of American General Joseph Stilwell. In Japan, the Foundation funded the restoration of Nara’s Chuguji, an imperial Buddhist nunnery.

Chuguji (World Monuments Fund photo)

Juanqinzhai (World Monuments Fund photo) - see the Peabody Essex Museum exhibition listed below.

Stilwell Residence/Museum (Neutral Surface photo, Creative Commons)

The Foundation has been equally committed to environmental protection. In Vermont, their support has permitted the Vermont Land Trust to purchase and preserve 300,000 acres. When tragedy struck in New York and in Southeast Asia, the Foundation was there. It offered support for restaurant workers and janitors who lost jobs when the World Trade Center was attacked and helped schools destroyed by the 2004 tsunami. It has underwritten work to remove land mines in Vietnam.

Buck Freeman touched and improved lives worldwide. We join many others in expressing our appreciation for his generosity and extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Doreen, and the other members of his family. He will be missed.



Thank you for reading Talking Points and for sharing it with others. We always welcome your feedback. Please write to us at

Please also consider supporting the USC U.S.-China Institute with an end of the year tax-deductible donation. Gifts of any amount are welcome. You may send a check to the address at the end of the newsletter or you may use your credit card at the secure USC gift website.

 Best wishes,
The USC US-China Institute

Write to us at
Subscribe to Talking Points at
Support the USC US-China Institute with your tax deductible gift at

Recent USC U.S.-China Institute web resources:

Former Ambassador Winston Lord on the current state of U.S.-China relations

The Thaw - 18 minute documentary on Taiwan-China relations

When a Billion Chinese Jump -- Jonathan Watts on China's environmental crisis

(Talking Points) human rights; China in the 2010 US election

(US-China Today) U.S. players dominate China's pro basketball league

(Asia Pacific Arts) Capsule reviews of Hong Kong films shown at this year's American Film Market


ends 12/23/2010: Horse Expression: Nature vs. Culture
Bierwirth Room
442 Temple Street, New Haven, CT 06511
The Yale-China Association presents Horse Expression: Nature vs. Culture, by New Haven-based artist Lin Qian. 

ends 12/31/2010: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture.


ends 12/31/2010: Tibetan Portrait: The Power of Compassion
The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
338 Lighthouse Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10308
Photographic portraits of Tibetans by Phil Borges.



ends 1/2/2011: The World of Khubilai Khan, Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028
Major exhibition drawing on loaned objects from Japan, Europe, and elsewhere in the US.





ends 1/2/2011: Ancient Chinese Bronzes - the Shouyang Studio
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603-6404
Exhibition presents items from the collection of Katherine and George Fan.





ends 1/9/2011: The Ideal Landscape
Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Marcia & John Price Museum Building 410 Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0350
Exhibition presents thirteen landscape paintings from the Ming dynasty to the 20th century. 





ends 1/9/2011: The Emperor's Private Paradise
Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square (161 Essex St.), Salem, MA 01970
90 objects from the Qianlong garden located in a corner of the Forbidden City. 

ends 02/06/2011: China Modern: Designing Popular Culture 1910-1970
Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101
The Pacific Asia Museum presents an exhibition that demonstrates how political ideologies and cultural values are transmitted via everyday objects in China.



Please invite others to subscribe to USCI’s free email newsletter for regular updates on events and programs. We will not share names or email addresses with any other entity. Click here to sign up.

We provide information about China-related events as a community service. If you would like your event considered for inclusion in the USCI calendar, please click here to submit event details.

You can support USCI by making a donation at

USC U.S. – China Institute
3535 S. Figueroa St.
FIG 202
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1262

Tel: 213-821-4382      
Fax: 213-821-2382

You have received this e-mail because you have subscribed to receive updates from USCI. If you feel this message has reached you in error or you no longer wish to receive our updates, please click, unsubscribe, and enter "Remove" in the subject line.