Chinese alumni fund new Edgar Snow Reading Room

Gift is from Beijing couple with ties to famed journalist

A $30,000 gift from Chinese donors with ties to famed journalist and Kansas City native Edgar Snow has made possible a revamped Edgar Snow Reading Room at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The new reading room is in UMKC’s Miller Nichols Library. The gift was announced by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation.

UMKC alumni Huang Zheng and Shu-Ching of Beijing, who are also known by the western names John and Alice, made the lead gift this winter toward the $60,000 renovation of the reading room, which houses Edgar Snow’s papers, including books, pictures and writings.

Snow, a Kansas City native, helped introduce the world to communist China in 1936 through his best-selling book “Red Star Over China.” John Huang’s father, Huang Hua, was a former student of Snow’s at Yenching University and was his interpreter on Snow’s 1936 trip to western China to interview Mao, Zhou Enlai, and the other early communist leaders.

Huang Hua later became one of China’s leading diplomats, eventually serving as China’s first permanent representative to the United Nations. He was a friend of E. Grey Dimond, founder of UMKC’s medical school, and his wife Mary Dwight Clark Dimond, who was instrumental in bringing Snow’s papers to Kansas City. The Dimonds also were friends of Edgar Snow.

Huang Hua’s friendship with the Dimonds is what led him to send two sons and one daughter to study at UMKC.

John Huang earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1989 and began his career as a commodities trader in Kansas City. John also met his wife, Alice, at UMKC. Alice earned an MBA at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management in 1988.

“They really care deeply about their ties to Kansas City and UMKC, and they were thrilled with the opportunity to be part of funding the renovated Edgar Snow Reading Room,” said Nancy Hill, administrator of Diastole Scholars’ Center, a nonprofit the Dimonds founded in their former home.

The friendship between the Dimonds and Huang Hua went beyond a personal relationship and extended to the friends’ mutual wish for better relations between the U.S. and China. Huang Hua helped found the China Society for People’s Friendship Studies (PFS), a Chinese organization that works with the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation, founded by Mary Clark Dimond, to help build ties between the two countries. UMKC awarded the PFS its prestigious Chancellor’s Medal in 2014.

“Their friendship started with this personal friendship, but became an institutional friendship,” said Hill, who also serves as a board member for the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation.

Today, John Huang serves as an honorary member of the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation board. Hill said the Huangs are looking forward to traveling to Kansas City soon to see the new Edgar Snow Reading Room.

The new setting is a vast improvement from what it used to be, said Bonnie Postlethwaite, dean of libraries at UMKC. The new Edgar Snow Reading Room, on the library’s third floor with the LaBudde Special Collections, is part of a major ongoing renovation of Miller Nichols Library.

Before the renovation, many people didn’t even realize UMKC is home to such a rich collection of Snow’s papers, Postlethwaite said.

“Few people knew it was here,” she said. “It’s a huge upgrade, and we know the new reading room space will greatly enhance the collection.”

The UMKC Foundation, launched in 2009, is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves as the official fundraising and fund management organization for UMKC.

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