A Tribute to Ainslie T. Embree

By John Stratton Hawley

Photo courtesy of the Embree family and used with permission.

It is my sad duty to report that Ainslie Embree died on the morning of June 6, 2017 at the age of 96. Anyone who knew him will remember his capacious intellect, his deep belief that the past is important to know, and equally, that the present is important to live. 

Ainslie served the profession in countless ways, as chair of Columbia’s History Department and Associate and then Acting Director of its School of International and Public Affairs, as President of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) and the AAS, as member of countless committees, and as a teacher and a friend. He was a special advisor to two ambassadors to India, Robert Goheen and Frank Wisner, and taught there as a young man. He loved the country. Everything he ever did or wrote is testament to that. He also had a deep interest in religion in all its forms—not an uncritical interest, though, as many of you will know.

If you knew Ainslie, you also knew his boundless savvy and wit, and oh how he loved to tell a story! In each of these respects he has been joined over the last seventy years by his wife Sue, who continues to live and thrive at their retirement community at Collington, in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C. They have a daughter Margot, a son Ralph, grandchildren on both sides, and many friends at Collington—there, indeed, and around the world.

I went down on the train from New York [Tuesday] morning to pay a visit, and learned upon arriving that Ainslie had caught the train before me—that Other Train. He was always one step ahead of the game. The thought of him has always brought a smile, and now, of course, a tear. But I got to spend the afternoon with Sue. The smile is back.

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