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Identifier: R-MC 083

Ardath W. Burks Papers


  • 1928-1996

Scope and Content Note

The Ardath W. Burks Papers date from 1928 to 1996. The papers are approximately 20.3 cubic feet in size; they include thirty-nine legal size manuscript boxes, nineteen letter size manuscript boxes, one photograph box, and four oversize boxes.

The papers contain material relating to both Burks's personal and public activities. Personal activities relate to his family and home life. His relationship with Japan, manifested in many ways, dominates his public activities; Burks's education, military service, promotion of positive relationships between Japan and the United States, and his academic career and endeavors relating to academia comprise elements of his public activities. However, the line of demarcation between the two spheres of activity blurs often, and documents like correspondence frequently contain information related to a myriad of topics, such as his family life, academic activities, and participation in Sister Cities International programs. Likewise, many series contain inter-related and complementary materials.

The Personal Files includes documents relating to Burks's family, his education from high school through graduate studies, and his career as a professional academic. Subjects within the Public Relations Files derive from Burks's military career, his status as a member of the faculty and administration of Rutgers University, his authoritative opinions regarding Japan and U.S.-Japanese relations, and his participation in international affairs. However, articles about or informed by Burks can be found throughout the collection, particularly in the Correspondence and Documents series.

Correspondence and Documents covers the greatest breadth of topics. All facets of Burks's life are found in this series; material ranges from Burks's letters to his wife to his participation in the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum's programs. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence between Burks and others in his professional capacities as a writer, administrator, teacher, and active researcher. The promotion of ties between Japan and the United States in a myriad of forms generated a substantial portion of the documents.

In contrast, the Military Service Files is a narrowly defined series concerning Burks's training and service as a naval language and intelligence officer. The Travel Files series is also a relatively discrete series relating to Burks's travel throughout the world. The majority of his peregrinations relate, albeit sometimes indirectly, to his academic work in the form of research trips and conference travel; the Yatoi conference in Japan is particularly prominent. However, this series also includes documentation of purely personal excursions, such as the trip to Belize in 1993.

The Subject Files series primarily consists of material documenting participation in formal academic institutions such as professional organizations and research centers. This material complements and intertwines with material generated by Burks's international activities and promotion of relationships between individuals and institutions within the United States and Japan.

The Lectures and Papers series, Collected Publications series, and Columbia University Seminar on Modern East Asia: Japan series all contain inter-related material generated by Burks's academic career. The Lectures and Papers series contains the broadest range of material, including Burks's published and unpublished writings, his teaching materials, documents accrued by Burks, and material generated by his participation in innovative academic institutions. The Columbia University Seminar on Modern East Asia: Japan series directly relates to one such institution, Columbia's Seminar on Modern East Asia: Japan, and contains copies of papers circulated for the seminar from its commencement. The Collected Publications series is also discrete, comprised solely of publications, in contrast to the unpublished papers collected by Burks in the Lectures and Papers series.

The Photographs series includes slides, prints, negatives and a scrapbook. Portraiture of Burks and his family, prints documenting official events, and reproductions of Griffis-related research material constitute this series.

The Personal and Travel Diaries contain entries relating to both Burks's private and academic life. Though many of the journals are completely filled, others are only partially filled. Each box's contents span approximately one decade. Around 1952, Burks began his extensive travel and at this point the entries take on a different tone. Whereas in earlier years Burks comments mainly on his personal life, and his own and others' political ideologies, the later years are filled mainly with historical facts of other nations, political situations, observations regarding cultural differences, and travel agendas. Though the topic of travel dominates these later years, interspersed are entries addressing personal events including his evolving and often frustrating relationship with Rutgers University, the death of his brother, Allen, and later, that of his wife Jane.

Datebooks are pocket-sized calendars containing various personal appointments. Each diary has been physically described in the event that they become separated from the files or boxes. The numbers are found only on the files that hold each diary, not on the diaries themselves.

Burks himself has annotated several documents within the collection.

Material concerning and generated by Jane Lyle Burks is interspersed throughout the collection.

Oversize materials have been stored separately.

Newspaper clippings throughout this collection have been photocopied for preservation and the originals discarded. However, full size newspaper pages are located in the oversize folders.


20.3 Cubic Feet (39 legal size manuscript boxes, 19 letter size manuscript boxes, 1 photograph box, 4 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials



The Ardath W. Burks Papers: Series I-X: Correspondence and Subject Files, 1928-1996, were established in 2004. Professor Burks donated the papers comprising Series XI-XIV in 2006.


The Ardath W. Burks Papers are those maintained and created by Ardath W. Burks, Rutgers University administrator and Professor of Asian Studies. The papers contain material relating to both Burks's personal and public activities. Personal activities relate to his family and home life. His relationship with Japan, manifested in many ways, dominates his public activities; Burks's education, military service, promotion of positive relationships between Japan and the United States, and his academic career and endeavors relating to academia comprise elements of his public activities. However, the line of demarcation between the two spheres of activity blurs often, and documents like correspondence frequently contain information related to a myriad of topics, such as his family life, academic activities, and participation in Sister Cities International programs.

Biographical Sketch

Ardath Walter Burks was born May 1, 1915 in Covington, Kentucky to Alonzo Edwin Burks, an assistant freight agent for the C & O Railroad, and Clara Grace McCracken Burks. He married Virginia Jane Lyle Burks on November 15, 1941; their son, Stephen Riki Burks, was born in 1954.

Burks received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1939, his M.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1941, and his Ph.D. from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1949. However, World War II interrupted his progress towards his doctorate. He served as an Associate Economic Analyst for the Office of Naval Intelligence from 1941 to 1943. In 1943, upon obtaining a release from his deferment, Burks enlisted in the United States Navy. He pursued intensive language training through the Naval Training School (Oriental Languages) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he received his certification in Japanese on April 15, 1944, and then attended the Advanced Naval Intelligence School in New York City. Afterwards, he was commissioned as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the U. S. Naval Reserves, and served as a Language Officer during World War II in the Pacific Theater.

In June 1944 Burks reported for passage on the U.S.S. Barnes, 14th Naval District. He worked as a language officer for Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) and Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas (JICPOA). Burks' assignments took him to islands that saw significant battles during the war including Leyte and Biak. He also served aboard U.S.S. Young America during this time and had 240 enlisted men under his command. His active duty ended in September 1946. Lt. Burks supplied intelligence information directly to Lieutenant Colonel John Haas. Hass forwarded reports to Commander J. W. Steele, who in turn forwarded them to General Joseph Twitty, JICPOA San Francisco, California

Only vague hints are provided as to Burks' location and exact duties during his service, but the following timeline was created from information extracted from Ardath W. Burks Papers, 1928-1996:

Burks left for sea in June 1944 and in July returned to Hawaii. By October 1944 he was writing home from "somewhere in the Pacific" and on November 7, 1944 referenced his location "somewhere in the Philippines." In mid November Burks describes visiting a primitive village that he describes as "one generation out of headhunting." On November 23 he indicates that he moved to a new island twenty-five miles from the former location. By December 1944 he had docked in Brisbane, Australia. In January 1945 he returned to Hawaii where he remained at least until March. Since we are missing letters from April and May 1945 his whereabouts during this time are not known. However in June 1945 he arrived in Guam where he remained until October 1945. Later that same month he traveled to Shanghai, China, Jinsen, Korea and Sasebo, Japan. By October 29, he was back at sea aboard the USS Blackford, a self-propelled barracks ship with a troop capacity of 990.

After the war, Burks immersed himself in academia. In 1948 he began his career at Rutgers as a professor of Political Science, serving as its chairman from 1962 through 1965. In 1966 he accepted a position as a visiting professor for the East Asian Institute at Columbia University. He returned to Rutgers in the fall of 1966, moving into administrative duties as the Director of International Programs until 1973. In 1973 Burks joined the formal administration of Rutgers as the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. His efforts to establish a Department of Asian Studies culminated in his appointment as the first Professor of Asian Studies in 1977. He formally retired in 1981, and was subsequently recognized as a Professor Emeritus of Asian Studies.

During his academic career, Burks remained active in research and writing and made numerous research trips. Amongst other positions, he was a Research Associate and the Acting Field Director for the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies in Okayama (1952-1953); a Senior Research Fulbright Fellow for Humanistic Studies at Kyoto University (1958-1959); a recipient of the Ford Travel-Study Grant, representing Rutgers and acting as a liaison with Tokyo Metropolitan University (1962); a Resident Consultant of the International House of Japan, Inc., in Tokyo (1965); and a consultant for the Council on International Educational Exchange (1970, 1973).

Burks supported many endeavors related to Japanese studies, such as the Japan Society in New York and the International House of Japan in Tokyo. He was also heavily involved in the Association for Asian Studies, serving on its Board of Directors (1972-1975) and as the Chairman for the Northeast Asia Regional Council (1972-1973). He participated in the prestigious Columbia University Seminar on Modern East Asia: Japan, from its inception in 1963, serving as its chairman on two occasions: 1966-1967 and 1987-1988. From 1956 to 1964, Burks was the director of various summer institutes for secondary school teachers dedicated to raising interest in Asian Studies in pre-college students. The first of these institutes was held at the University of Delaware in 1956; later ones took place at Temple University, the University of Hawaii, and Rutgers University.

From the beginning of his tenure at Rutgers, Burks devoted his energies to reviving interest in Japan and renewing ties between Rutgers and Fukui University which had originated in the mid-nineteenth century. With his enthusiastic promotion and participation, Rutgers University and Fukui University built a collaborative relationship manifested in various activities such as: the formation of Rutgers-kai, the Rutgers Association of Fukui (1978); the establishment of the Griffis-Kusakabe Fund (1978); and the creation of a formal exchange program between Rutgers and Fukui University (1981). Burks also actively supported positive relations between the United States and Japan on local and national levels. Due in part to his enthusiasm, New Brunswick signed a Sister Cities agreement with the city of Fukui in 1982, and New Jersey entered into a sister state agreement with Fukui Prefecture in 1990. In 1982, Burks was recognized as an honorary citizen of Fukui.

Burks was in many ways responsible for promoting the William Elliot Griffis Collection, held by Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. The Griffis Collection documents the life of Griffis, who was one of the first oyatoi gaikokujin (foreign employees) serving in the Meiji government. Griffis was also involved in tutoring a number of ryÛgakusei (overseas students) who studied at Rutgers in the mid to late nineteenth century. Burks's later research centered on the yatoi and ryÛgakusei. He helped organize two major conferences on the yatoi, one at Rutgers in 1967 and one at Fukui University in 1985, which were attended by distinguished Asian Studies scholars from around the world. The proceedings of the 1967 conference were published as The Modernizers: Overseas Students, Foreign Employees, and Meiji Japan (Kindaika no suishintach; ryugakusei, oyatoi-gaikokujin to Meiji), and those of the 1985 conference as Foreign Employees in Nineteenth Century Japan (Za Yatoi).

After retirement, Burks maintained his ties to Rutgers University and Fukui. He helped found Rutgers University Academy for Lifelong Learning (RU-ALL). He acted as a volunteer member of the Sister-Cities Committee of New Brunswick, and advised New Brunswick Mayor John Lynch as a member of a delegation from New Brunswick to Tokyo, Tsuruoka, Fukui, and Kyoto. Other volunteer positions held by Burks included being a consultant for Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives and a counselor for the Zimmerli Art Museum and International Center for Japonisme at Rutgers University. The Japanese government decorated him in 1990 with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.

Jane Lyle Burks died in 1991. Ardath Burks currently resides in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

Arrangement of Collection

The Ardath W. Burks Papers are divided into fourteen series

Arrangement Note

The Papers of Ardath W. Burks: Series I-X: Correspondence and Subject Files are as follows:

  1. I. Personal Files, 1928-1993
  2. II. Public Relations Files, 1939-1995
  3. III. Military Service Files, 1939-1954
  4. IV. Correspondence and Document Files, 1930-1996
  5. V. Travel Files, 1951-1993
  6. VI. Subject Files, 1949-1994
  7. VII. Lectures and Papers, 1938-1995
  8. VIII. Collected Publications, 1951-1992
  9. IX. Columbia University Seminar on Modern East Asia: Japan, 1961-1995
  10. X. Photographs, 1940-c.1993
  11. XI. Personal and Travel Diaries, 1931-1994
  12. XII. Datebooks, 1958-2000
  13. XIII. Personal Correspondence Files, 1941-1945
  14. XIV. Collected Documents File, 1941-1945

Related Material

Material about Burks can also be found in the Griffis-Related sub-group of the William Elliot Griffis Collection (MC 1015) in Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

Guide to the Ardath W. Burks Papers, 1928-1996 R-MC 083
Edited Full Draft
Fernanda Perrone & Marci Cook
2004 & 2006
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
169 College Avenue
New Brunswick NJ 08901-1163
732-932-7012 (Fax)