Memorial event planned for Prof. Emeritus Sperling

Elliot SperlingFeb. 3, 2017

Faculty, staff, and students at the IU School of Global and International Studies mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies Elliot Sperling. He died unexpectedly on Jan.29.

Sperling is known across the globe for his work as a historian of Tibet and Tibetan-Chinese relations. Sperling earned a MacArthur Foundation award in 1984, the award known as the “Genius Grant.” He was a frequently-cited expert on issues of Chinese and Tibetans, most recently commenting to the New York Times for a November article on China’s actions at the world's largest Buddhist institute and an October  article on a jailed Uighur scholar whom he supported even under pressure from the Chinese government.

As the Tibetan Review reported, the Tibetan Parliament in Exile called Sperling's death "an irreparable loss both for his family and for the cause of Tibet."

Most of Sperling’s career was spent at Indiana University and CEUS, including serving seven years as the department chair. He returned to IU in 1987 following time on the faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi. He was also a visiting professor at Harvard and the University of Delhi. He earned his PhD at IU in 1983, writing a widely-cited dissertation on the history of Chinese rule of Tibet. During his career, he mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students from the United States, South and East Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

A memorial event will be held on the IU Bloomington campus on Saturday, April 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Fine Arts 015, with many of Prof. Sperling’s friends, distinguished international colleagues, and students in attendance.

Read more about Sperling’s career here.