Early Asian 

Alumni at Cornell 


Nagasawa Kanaye (Class of 1870)

Kagosima, Japan

Born Hikosuke Isonaga, Mr. Nagasawa was one of the first eight Japanese individuals to come to America, and the first Japanese student to attend Cornell University. Mr. Nagasawa entered Cornell in 1870 and studied Natural History for one year. During his time in Ithaca, he lived at Cascadilla Place no. 40. After his time at Cornell, Mr. Nagasawa went on to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors with vineyards in Santa Rosa, California.  

Arakawa Shigehide (Class of 1884)

Tokyo, Japan

For his undergraduate studies, Mr. Arakawa attended Sapporo Agricultural College in Hokkaido, Japan. In 1883, Mr. Arakawa enrolled at Cornell University and studied for one year. After his time at Cornell, he went to the University of Michigan and received a Master's degree in Science in 1887. Though his educational background was in agriculture and science, Arakawa was a man of many interests. He later became interested in law and theater; he ultimately became a director and actor, developing Shakespearean productions in Japan.

Iwasaki Seikichi (Class of 1887)

Tokyo, Japan

Mr. Iwasaki studied science at Cornell University as a graduate student from 1885 to 1887. He later went to Yale to study law, but still had close ties with Cornell as he later became the head of the Cornell Club in Tokyo. He was close friends with Katayama Sen, a founder of the Japan Communist Party, and was the nephew of Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi Group. Mr. Iwasaki was also the head of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and several businesses, including Tokyo Gas Company and Iwasaki Cement Company. His notebook from his Cornell English class is currently housed in Cornell's Kroch Library for Rare and Manuscript collections. 

Sao-Ke Alfred Sze (Class of 1901)


Mr. Sze was the first Chinese student to graduate from Cornell with a degree. After his graduation Mr. Sze returned to China and worked for the Peking Government. He was a leading diplomat during the turbulent 1920s and 30s. Mr. Sze served as an ambassador to Great Britain and the United States. In 1935, he became the first official Chinese Ambassador to the United States. Mr. Sze was also one of the founding members of the World Bank. 

Hu Shih (Class of 1914)

Ji-Shee, Anhui, China

Hu Shih is one of Cornell's most accomplished alumni. Mr. Shih received funding for his studies through the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program. He enrolled in studies at Cornell University in 1910 and graduated with the class of 1914. He originally studied Agriculture, but changed his major to Philosophy and Literature after two years. While at Cornell, Mr. Shih was an active member of the community. After his time at Cornell, he went on to be a key contributor in the May Fourth Movement, Chinese liberal development, and literature. He stayed strongly connected to academia and served as a president of Peking University. He was also nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature. For those who knew him at Cornell, Mr. Shih is remembered as a thoughtful, studious young man who was deeply appreciated by his friends. 

Pingsa Hu (Class of 1914)


Miss Pingsa Hu attended Wellesley College and received her undergraduate degree in 1913. Upon the completion of her degree, the Chinese Government sent her to Cornell University to study American women from a social, political, and economic perspective. Her appointment at Cornell lasted two years. The ministry of education in Peking also asked Miss Hu to represent China in the Third International Congress of the Child Welfare Association. 

Nakamigawa Tetsushiro (Class of 1914)

Tokyo, Japan

Mr. Nakamigawa studied mechanical engineering from 1910 to 1914. He was a member of the Cosmopolitan Club, president of Cornell Japanese Club, and a member of Senior Day Committee. He once said, "The time has come for me to say goodbye to you, Cornell University. My voice may sound happy, but it is sorrowful in some respects, and you will understand why without my explanation. I will tell you this as my last word in parting: I am not regretting that I have traveled eight thousand miles to see you." 

Chao Yuen Ren (Class of 1915)

Zhangzhou, Fujian, China

Chao Yuen Ren was a graduate student studying German and French from 1910 to 1915. As a linguist, he also learned many dialects of Chinese (including the Fukienese and Changsha dialects) and studied Sanskrit at Harvard. Mr. Chao also studied mathematics and philosophy. He developed the national romanization of Chinese called Gwoyeu Romatzyh/Guoyu luomazi that was adopted by the Chinese government in 1928. He also produced a Chinese dictionary called "Concise Dictionary of Spoken Chinese" in 1946. He translated several English books into Chinese, including Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." In addition, he also composed songs, including "How Can I Help Thinking of You?"

Henry Cu (Hyong-Ku) Kim (Class of 1915)


Mr. Kim was one of the first Korean students to attend Cornell. Mr. Kim was a leader of the Korean independence movement in the United States, opposing the Japanese annexation of Korea. His autobiography and writings were published posthumously in 1987. 

Yoshi Shoda (Class of 1916)

Tochigi, Japan

Ms. Shoda is one of Cornell's most mysterious students. According to a note from the Board of Trustees, Ms. Shoda was to study at Cornell for free in the academic year 1911-1912. According to the transcript records and alumni files, Ms. Shoda did indeed study at Cornell during that time. However, Ms. Shoda enrolled but did not complete any courses after this time, having left Cornell in 1913. Strangely, the university registrar lists Ms. Shoda as having graduated in 1916. 

The story gets even stranger. From 1914-1917, a girl named Yoshi Shoda attended Ithaca High School. Her name and photographs appear in the 1915 and 1917 Ithaca High School yearbooks. In 1915, she is listed as a member of the Art Club. She graduated from Ithaca High School in 1917. In 1919, Yoshi Shoda seems to have gone to Columbia University as a graduate student in sociology. According to the Columbia University Registrar’s records, she attended Columbia University from 1919-1921. In 1930, Yoshi Shoda attended a dinner hosted by the Cornell Club of Tokyo for attendees at the World Engineering Congress in Tokyo. The article includes a group photo. 

Who was this mysterious student? 

Helen Huie Kwei (Class of 1920)

New York, NY

Miss Helen Huie Kwei overcame many challenges. She was born on 1899 in New York, NY as the daughter of Reverend Huie Kin Kwong and Louise Van Arnam. She was one of the first Asian American students to ever study at Cornell. She graduated in 1920 with a B.A. While on campus, she was very active in athletics and student affairs. She was a member of the Mortar Board, Crew, the Cornell Baseball Team, the Cornell Basketball Team, the Cornell Tennis Team, the Y.W.C.A, and the Chinese Students Club. Miss Kwei held leadership roles such as the president of the Y.W.C.A and the captain of the basketball team. 

Thomson Eason Mao (Class of 1920)


After his graduation from Tangshan, Mr. Mao came to Cornell University to pursue a M.C.E. in 1917. He was later given the degree of Doctor of Engineering by the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1920.  He is the first Chinese person to receive this degree in America. Mr. Mao went on to become a professor of bridge engineering in China. 

Niinomi Kunitaro (Class of 1924)

Dairen, Manchuria

Mr. Niinomi entered Cornell in 1921. He spent three years studying before graduating in 1924. While at Cornell, Mr. Niinomi focused his studies on economic geology and physical geography. In 1924, Mr, Niinomi left the university with an A.M degree in Geology. Mr. Niinomi was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. 

Zing-Whai Ku Kating (Class of 1926)


Miss Kating spent three years at Cornell after transferring from La Universitato Utopia. She was involved in the Chinese Students' Club and the Women's Cosmopolitan Club.  

Kyeiu-Wei Kao (Class of 1926 and 1927)


Miss Kao came to Cornell University's College of Arts and Science from Shanghai, China after graduating from St. Mary's High School. She received her A.B. in 1926 and M.S. in 1927. After her studies at Cornell, she went on to teach chemistry at Yenching University in Peking. 

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