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Pt. 2, Fostering a Global Vision

Ray C. Hillam


Ray C. Hillam took over the reins at the Kennedy Center in 1985. He brought a unique perspective to the role of director, thanks in part to firsthand experience with international politics and conflict.

The only Kennedy Center director who did not attend BYU as a student, Hillam received his BA in political science from the University of Utah. Hillam earned an MAfrom George Washington University and a PhD from American University. Throughout his schooling, Hillam focused primarily on international relations and Asian studies.

Though he began his teaching career at BYU in 1960, Hillam’s professional career began several years earlier, when he spent three years in the U.S. Army in Tokyo, Japan, as a research assistant in psychological warfare during the Korean War and a Chinese intelligence analyst for the CIA. In 1966 Hillam spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Vietnam and as an advisor to the Vietnamese Political Warfare College. He received a second Fulbright in 1973, teaching for a year in Taipei, Taiwan. He also finished his teaching career as a Fulbright scholar to China in 1992, where he taught future Chinese diplomats at the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Beijing Foreign Affairs College.

Hillam has excelled in academia. He received numerous teaching awards, including the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Teaching Award and the Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Award. Hillam’s administrative experience included eight years as coordinator of the IR program he started in 1963, nine years as Political Science Department chair, and director of five study abroad programs. He was well suited for his role as Kennedy Center director.

Though now an emeritus professor, Hillam remains interested in the Kennedy Center and in international studies.

What is your favorite memory from your years as director?

Aside from receiving a telegram in Hong Kong, appointing me the director of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, my most memorable moment was visiting Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi during Thanksgiving week 1989. As a representative of the center, I went with Gerrit Gong, who represented the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, and visited with Minister Dang Ngaihheim Bai, head of the North American Affairs Bureau of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and members of their Institute of Foreign Affairs “think tank.”

Months later, I lectured at Mongolian State University, where busts of Marx and Lenin were displayed behind me. My lecture was on the decline of the Soviet empire. Having been a cold warrior during thirty-three years of teaching, it was pure satisfaction to teach Wilsonian democracy to our former adversaries.

What was your vision for the center during your tenure as director?

First, that the center follow the guidelines set out by President Holland. I believe the mission statement put forth on 17 November 1983 at the inauguration and the 3 October 1985 dedication were inspired and have stood the test of time.

Second, that there be a strong undergraduate degree in international relations and that it become, as President Bateman later stated, the “flagship of the center.” I also wanted to see that the existing area studies programs receive support.

Third, that there be a small, quality master’s degree program.

Fourth, that there be a research and publication emphasis.

Fifth, that study abroad, field study, internships, and development receive emphasis.

And sixth, that the interdisciplinary integrity of the academic programs be strengthened and protected.

Who inspired or supported you most while director of the center?

Both Martin Hickman and Spencer Palmer had a great influence on me. Martin was my best friend and neighbor. We had similar training, and he had a lot of confidence in me. We walked to school together and argued and debated issues with gusto. I respected his judgement. We could do battle with one another, and we had a deep friendship.

Spencer’s influence was significant and in some ways greater than Martin’s. We were in the “trenches” together. We were partners in developing the center, and we spent much time together in Asia. He introduced me to David Kennedy, and, as associate director, he was an unselfish partner. He was an inspiration to work with.

What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment for the center?

I am most proud of the quality of men and women that we enlisted in the service of the goals of the center. Spencer Palmer, Larry Shumway, Jim Toronto, Suzanne Willmore, Ladd Hollist, Valerie Hudson, LaMond Tullis, Eric Hyer, Ted Lyon, Earl Fry, Del Palmer, Jeff Ringer, Grant Skabelund, Rod Boynton, and Chelita Pate are some of those I have in mind. Martin Hickman, Richard Cracroft, Bill Evenson, and Jae Balliff gave us support that we reciprocated. President Kimball said, “We have the raw materials, we have the facilities, we have the spiritual climate. We must train statesmen and not demigods, men of integrity, not weaklings. We must develop these precious youth in the arts of their future work.” Assembling and working with competent peers who combined the intellectual and spiritual in their work did much to build character and future statesmen. Having Ambassador Kennedy on the “team” was equally gratifying.

What would you have liked to accomplish but didn’t?

Our goal was to raise $10,000,000 in the first five years. We reached less than half that. I spent a lot of time fund-raising, and it was something I did not always enjoy. My most satisfying moments were the meetings we had with Glenn Nielson. He increased his support at least three or four times. He loved David Kennedy. He wanted to honor him and wanted no publicity regarding his contributions.

How did your academic/professional background affect or influence your role as director?

My academic and professional background had a direct influence on my role as director of the Kennedy Center; it explains my role. International issues had been of interest to me since my formative years. I was fascinated with World War II. Thirty-two months as a missionary to Sweden and fourteen months in Japan with the U.S. Army were contributing factors. My interest was enhanced at Sophia University—by doing research in Tokyo—and at the University of Utah, where I studied international relations under Sam Rich. After graduation, I became a Chinese intelligence analyst for the CIA.

I studied for an MAunder Robert Kenny at George Washington. At American University, I studied under Lord Michael Lindsay. These credentials and experiences, as well as the influence of Ed Morrell, who was in Russian studies at Harvard and spent a year in Moscow, Stanley Taylor, who studied international relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Martin Hickman, who had six years in the diplomatic corps and was on the faculty of USC’s School of International Relations, were significant. The shaping and founding of international studies and the Kennedy Center were heavily influenced by our graduate school backgrounds and our interests and experiences at BYU.

Where do you hope to see the center’s future involvement on campus or in the world?

For the time being, we should accept the status quo and do what we can to restore old friendships and cement collegial relations. Eventually, I would like to see the center become a school or a center within a School of Public and International Affairs. It should have a mix of its own faculty and faculty with dual appointments. This can be accomplished only with commitment and an infusion of institutional and private funding.

Did your experiences at the center affect your worldview? If so, how?

I’m not sure. By the time I became director, I already had a worldview. That is the reason why, in 1985, I was so excited about my appointment, and I set about trying to respond to that world view. I had the guidelines and inspiration. I had been fortunate to have been one of the founders.

During the formative years of the center, Stan and I were of the same mind and worked together. Richard Beal and Martin Hickman became involved. Spencer Palmer and some of the coordinators also helped shape a common world view, and many of the same people were involved in the founding. This vision and world view was a composite of our backgrounds, training, and experiences.

President Holland and President Ballif called for the center to coordinate all university international activities and instructed us to be available to the Church. At the inauguration on 23 November 1983, President Holland expanded on our world view.

When I became director in 1985, there were dramatic changes taking place in the world. This broadened our opportunities. It provided us with several initiatives that have expressed an expanded vision:

1. The China Teachers Program, which has sent more than four hundred teachers to more than two dozen universities in China, was one such initiative.
2. The Kennedy-Holland visit with King Hussein, which strengthened a presence for the university and the Church.
3. The establishment of the International Society, with its database of professionals in the Church and annual conference addressing issues for the global Church.
4. The Kennedy Center’s early involvement with Cole Durham, who heads the BYU Center of Law and Religious Studies. Durham has done things in religious freedom that would please David M. Kennedy.
5. Since 1999, the center has been associated with the World Family Policy Center, led by Richard G. Wilkins and Cory W. Leonard. The Kennedy Center is registered as a UN nongovernmental organization.

These initiatives were pragmatic responses to a changing world and fit our vision.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while director of the center?

The most surprising thing was the dynamic change in the global system. It affected the content and theory of what we studied and taught. I was stunned by Gorbachev’s surrender of Soviet power and the dismantling of the Soviet empire. It resulted in a bonanza of opportunities for the center, its faculty, and its students. It opened opportunities for language study, internships, study abroad, and scholarly research. We now have programs in China, Russia, the Ukraine, and other areas.

On campus, we were pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of extraordinary visitors. We had such highprofile visitors as Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, President Gerald Ford, and President Ronald Reagan.

It was exciting to see how fast the Church moved with these structural changes in opening parts of the world that had been closed to us. It has been a challenge for the university to keep pace with the Church in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.

In what way do you feel your time as director fulfilled David M. Kennedy’s vision for the center?

We were sensitive about Kennedy’s vision. We spent a lot of time with him and his family. We tried to keep him informed. We sent him new CultureGrams as they came off the press. We sent lecture and symposia announcements to him. We encouraged him to come to Provo once a week to visit with students in his office. He taught a seminar. Each spring he attended the annual awards banquet for our graduate students. He was very proud of his biography, which was written by Martin Hickman. Kennedy was a role model. He seemed to enjoy his meetings with us. In a letter, dated 5 September 1993, he said, “The speakers you have attracted have been outstanding, an astounding accomplishment.”

Hardly a week passed without a notice in the press of an activity in his name. During the first ten years, the Kennedy Center hosted three members of royalty, two former U.S. presidents, a prime minister, cabinet members, several ministers, three MPs, two senators, legislators, thirty-seven ambassadors, and scores of diplomats, as well as many distinguished academics from the leading universities of the world.

Kennedy said of the center, “Yes, it can make a contribution to America and other countries. I like that. The center should help us understand other peoples and other ways of life. And it should also help expand the influence of the Church throughout the world.”

We made an effort to keep his good name before the public.

R. Lanier Britsch


In 1991, Lanier Britsch was appointed the new director of the Kennedy Center. A specialist in Asian studies and Asian religions, Britsch seemed the ideal candidate to help further BYU involvement in the world community.

Britsch’s interest in Asia goes back at least as far as his undergraduate days at BYU. In 1963, he received a BA in Asian studies and anthropology from BYU. Britsch went on to receive an MA in history the next year. He then received a PhD in Asian studies from Claremont Graduate University, in California, where he specialized in the history of Asian religions and thought.

Britsch began teaching at BYU in 1966. Though trained to teach the history of Japan, China, and India, as well as Asian thought, Britsch went on to create his own specialty as well. He has done a large amount of research and written several books on the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints in Asia and the Pacific. He has directed the Asian studies program for BYU and served as the area consultant for India. Throughout his teaching career, Britsch has been a favorite of students and other teachers alike.

Before his appointment to the Kennedy Center, Britsch also worked as vice president for academics at BYU—Hawaii. His experience in administration, research, and extensive travel— in the Pacific, Asia and the Near East, and Europe, usually on university assignments—prepared him well for his responsibilities at the Kennedy Center.

Now retired, Britsch continues to focus his time and energy on Asia and the Pacific. He and his wife are serving a mission at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, where he is writing a history of the center.

What is your favorite memory from your years as director?

Almost everything that I like to remember was done by colleagues and students at the center. If I had to narrow it down to one favorite memory, I must list the overall experience of hosting ambassadors, diplomats, distinguished scholars, and other dignitaries at the weekly forums. With only one exception, I found the ambassadors and consuls to be as eager to leave a warm and positive impression on us as we were to do the same for them. I was always delighted with the quality of questions asked by our students. I was also thrilled to “show off” the number of our students who spoke the various languages of our international guests.

What was your vision for the center during your tenure as director?

First, I wanted the international majors—undergraduate and graduate—to be the best possible. I believe that, in the whole country, BYU has the most well prepared student body for the international realm. The statistics bear this out: our students are number one in international residential experiences, languages, and other important indicators. I did not believe the administration realized what a treasure it had, and I always hoped I could justify greater support for our academic programs.

Second, I strongly believed in the important role that the auxiliary programs of the center played for the university. These programs included Study Abroad and all that it has grown into, including the enhanced volunteers, internships, and field studies programs; Model UN and the attendant programs of the student services area; publications, with its excellent output of CultureGrams, books, and the student journal.

Third, I strongly believed in the importance of the center as a focus for diplomatic outreach for the university and the Church. As stated previously, I deeply enjoyed meeting with diplomats and international visitors and introducing them to our students and to the university at large.

Fourth, because the world is simultaneously so large and so small, I believed the original mission of the center—to coordinate and enhance the university’s international outreach— was very important. One of the main reasons for the creation of the Kennedy Center was because international matters were and are so disparate. A coordinating entity was and is needed to bring “loose ends” together. The center’s ability to act as host for a number of international journals and professional organizations is a good example. For the first several years I was there, the Kennedy Center was the international headquarters for the large and highly respected International Studies Association. The center’s joint sponsorship of the International Society has also been a good thing. That organization could not have been nested comfortably anywhere else on campus. I was also grateful to be able to help with the religious liberty conferences of the J. Reuben Clark Law School.

Fifth, I believed the research funds the center allocated to faculty members for international research were important and did a lot of good. They were administered by faculty committees on a competitive basis.

Finally, I believed the center should serve a broader audience than the experts in international studies and politics. Other disciplines, such as nursing and agriculture, had important players in the international arena. These professionals also needed support and encouragement. I tried to give it.

Who inspired or supported you most while director of the center?

From the administration, I received strong support first from Todd A. Britsch, associate academic vice president. Then, when John S. Tanner became academic VP, I reported to him. We remain close friends and associates to this day. I received wonderful support and encouragement from so many colleagues that I fear that to mention a few will mean leaving out so many. I must mention my predecessor, Ray Hillam. He guided my first steps and then moved away when he could see that I knew how to walk. He was a great counselor when I needed thoughts from an experienced mind. My main cheerleader was always Professor Valerie Hudson. I consider her one of the brightest minds on campus and always appreciated her views and analyses. My associate directors, James Toronto and Jeff Ringer, were loyal, bright, innovative, and wise. Ted Lyon provided great wisdom and inspired leadership over the undergraduate programs. In addition, without mentioning names, I received great support and inspiration from the directors and coordinators of the various academic programs. Their dedication and love for their students and programs were always an inspiration to me.

What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment for the center?

Working with a wonderful team of supporters to keep the center intact when the self-study report recommended almost complete dismemberment.

What would you have liked to accomplish but didn’t?

We talked about a lot of possible improvements. The relationship of the Kennedy Center to the two principal colleges— Family, Home, and Social Sciences and Humanities—was a test of cooperative skills for all concerned. I would have liked to have raised some endowment funds for the center. Although some significant monies came in during my term, I personally was not successful in this area.

How did your academic/professional background affect or influence your role as director?

As an undergraduate, I studied Asian studies and anthropology. In my master’s program, I studied history. In my PhD program, I studied Asian history and world religions. In my teaching career, I taught Asian history and world religions. In my research, I focused on Latter-day Saint history in Asia and the Pacific. Some scholars believe our work should be like drilling a well. I have always believed another legitimate approach is to search and drink from different waters all over the lake. While I strongly support in-depth research, I also believe in the broader approach to gaining knowledge. Because the various programs at the Kennedy Center are interdisciplinary, international, and multicultural, I believe my broad view of the world helped me appreciate the interests, concerns, beliefs, and knowledge fields of many people. I tried to further the work of many people from many disciplines.

Where do you hope to see the center’s future involvement on campus or in the world?

My hopes for the Kennedy Center are rather modest. I hope the international, interdisciplinary majors will remain strong and produce excellent graduates, who will go on to further studies and successful careers in academia, government, business, and industry. I hope the programs under the umbrella of what we used to call Study Abroad (now International Study Programs) will continue to expand and offer a multitude of international study, volunteer, internship, and field study experiences that will prepare participants with understanding and the ability to serve well in a broad spectrum of cultural settings. I hope the center will have the resources to support meaningful international research from scholars in many disciplines. I hope the center will be a useful clearinghouse and “landlord” for professional organizations. I hope it will find a way to fulfill one of its original purposes, that of sponsoring scholarly publications on international topics. I hope it will lend its name and strength to causes such as the rights of the family throughout the world and to religious liberty everywhere. And I hope it will always be a center for protocol and diplomacy for the Church as it hosts dignitaries from around the world.

Did your experiences at the center affect your worldview? If so, how?

My experiences at the Kennedy Center affected my worldview in many ways. Of course, I already had a deep appreciation for the peoples and cultures of the world. As a professor of Asian history and world religions, my interests were broad and my appreciation for humanity was deep. My mission to Hawaii for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young man created feelings of love for the many peoples of Polynesia, the broader Pacific, and Asia. But my opportunities at the Kennedy Center extended my knowledge and introduced me to many parts of the world with which I was unfamiliar.

In official capacities, I traveled throughout Asia, to England, France, Italy, Austria, Malta, Czechoslovakia (before the split), Germany, Russia, Jordan, Turkey, and Greece. I met many diplomats from all over the world at the Kennedy Center. I also had the opportunity to sit on a coordinating committee that included various department heads from Church headquarters. This opened the door to coordinate with the International Affairs office of the Church in Washington, D.C. As director of the center, I had the opportunity to work with the International Society, a group of Latter-day Saint professionals who work throughout the world, and to be part of the knowledge sharing of that outstanding group of people. I worked closely with Cole Durham on his religious liberty undertakings. And, of course, I attended almost every forum held at the center, as well as many other presentations, during the six years of my tenure. How could I have avoided having my world view and understanding of world affairs enriched and enlarged? It was wonderful.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while director of the center?

Although I have always been aware that scholarly disagreements exist regarding the approaches to knowledge, I was most surprised by the strong opposition held by some colleagues regarding the legitimacy of the academic programs of the center. In this age of global problems, I do not believe any single discipline has all the answers. Narrow disciplinarians often speak of the need for methodologies and theory. Interdisciplinary studies introduce students to a number of approaches, methods, and theories. To survive in the “disciplines,” an interdisciplinary scholar must learn a great deal about each discipline he or she works in. In the end, perhaps I am narrow minded about the importance of being broad.

In what way do you feel your time as director fulfilled David M. Kennedy’s vision for the center?

I had the privilege of associating with David M. Kennedy on many occasions. He was warm, interested in the center and its students, and eager to be of help. During the first years while I was there (1991–94) he frequently met with our graduate students and counseled with them regarding their studies, hopes, thesis ideas, and so on. He was forthright and honest, but never abrasive.

The center was graced and privileged to use the Kennedy name. As he was brought into the discussions regarding the possibility of creating the Kennedy Center, he shared his ideas and hopes for the place. He wanted it to be on the same level as the J. Reuben Clark Law School and the Marriott School of Management. He was very supportive of the graduate program and the influence Latter-day Saint scholars could have on the world. He hoped to have the center produce high quality books on international relations topics. While I was affiliated with the center, I tried to further his ideas and hopes. How well I succeeded is for someone else to decide.

See Pt 1 and Pt 3 for more from this article.