Sad news of the passing of Ainslie Embree

Sumit Guha's picture

I post a brief announcement of the passing of Ainslie Embree, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University written by John S. Hawley, Claire Tow Professor of Religion
Barnard College, Columbia University.

It is posted with Professor Hawley's permission.


It is my sad duty to report that Ainslie Embree died this morning 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 that the present is important to live.  He 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 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 this 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. 

Ed. note: The event notice below is posted at the request of Frank Conlon, from an email from William A. Carrick of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University, dated 9 November, 2017. See also

Monday, November 13
In Memoriam:  Ainslie T. Embree (1921-2017)

Tributes will be paid to Ainslie Embree by former students, colleagues, and friends, including the former US ambassador to India.

Ainslie T. Embree was Professor of History (1958-1991) and Professor Emeritus of History (1991-2017), Columbia University.  He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and had taught at Indore Christian College, Duke University, and Columbia.  While at Columbia he served as Director of Contemporary Civilization, of the undergraduate Asian civilization program; as Chairman of the Middle East Languages and Cultures Department and the History Department; as Director of the Southern Asian Institute; and as Acting Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs.

He served as President of the Association for Asian Studies and of the American Institute for Indian Studies; as Chair of South Asian sections of the American Council of Learned Societies and of the Social Science Research Council. From 1978-80 he served as the Counselor for Cultural Affairs at the American Embassy, New Delhi, and from 1994-95 he served as consultant to the American Ambassador in India, Frank Wisner.

He was editor-in-chief of the four-volume *Encyclopedia of Asian History* (1989) and editor of the revised *Sources of Indian Tradition* (1988), *Asia in Western and World History* (with Carol Gluck, 1997),  and* India’s World and U.S. Scholars: 1947-1997* (with others, 1998).  Professor Embree authored, among other publications,* Imagining India: Essays on Indian History* (1989), *Utopias in Conflict: Religion and Nationalism in India* (1990), and *India’s Search for National Identity* (1988), and contributed chapters to many books on India and South Asia.

Reception:  5:30pm - 6:00pm
Memorial:  6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location:  Kellogg Center, Room 1501, International Affairs Building
Enter at 420 West 118th Street, at Amsterdam Avenue (Map and directions)