EDITOR’S NOTE: Most people in Asian Studies outreach at the K–12 level are familiar with Frank Buchanan and Elgin Heinz. They, along with a few other people, created the field in the U.S. We are pleased to publish this essay by Elgin Heinz and the following interview with Frank Buchanan. Special thanks are due Lucia Pierce, David Grossman, Carol Marquis, Carol Murphey, Namji Kim Steinemann and Lynne “Tuckie” Yirchott for their assistance on this feature section.
Elgin Heinz’s first contact with Asia was as the child of a faculty member at China’s Tsing Hua College. His father was a mathematics instructor and department head of the original faculty. Elgin was literally born on campus in 1913. Most of the years between learning to read and entering the University of California at Berkeley were spent in the Tsing Hua library. In his own words, “. . . the library became my unsupervised school.” Heinz graduated from Berkeley with degrees in philosophy and public speaking and later earned a graduate degree in history at San Francisco State University. He spent forty years teaching in the San Francisco Public Schools, at first teaching literature and later, geography and history. During his tenure as a teacher Heinz became nationally known for his efforts in assisting students and school teachers to learn more about Asia.