Did you know there is an award given every spring to a Bucknell University organization or individual who has made exceptional contributions to the intercultural and international understanding among the Bucknell community? It is called the Burma-Bucknell Bowl Award, and it was inspired by the original Burma-Bucknell Bowl, which was gifted to the University in 1958 as recognition for the years of friendship and connection between the Bucknell University community and the nation of Burma, which is known today as Myanmar.
The Bucknell-Burma connection began in 1858, when a Burmese student named Maung Shaw Loo came to Bucknell University and became the first international student to study at the University, as well as the first Burmese student ever to study in the United States. After completing his Bucknell education, Shaw Loo went on to attend medical school and later returned to Burma to become distinguished in the field of medicine as well as serving as the physician to the Burmese King. Ninety years after Shaw Loo’s arrival in Lewisburg, the University decided to recognize it unique and long standing ties with Burma and Burmese students by creating the Burma-Bucknell Weekends.
Beginning in 1948, the Burma-Bucknell Weekends were recommended by Miss Helen Hunt and Mr. and Mrs. Samuel H. Rickard. Helen Hunt was the daughter of former Bucknell president, Emory W. Hunt, and for many years a teacher and administrator in Burma. She suggested that Bucknellians invite Burmese students and citizens to campus for a weekend to get acquainted and celebrate years of connection. From the beginning, the weekends were a success and had excellent cooperation between the University, the Embassy of the Union of Burma, the Burma delegation to the U.N., the U.S. Department of State, and private agencies. Through several panel discussions, lectures, exhibits, and demonstrations, the weekends brought together the worlds of university, community, religion, government, and business in mutual understanding across diverse ethnic groups.
The Burma-Bucknell weekends reached their peak in 1958, when the Bucknell community and nation of Burma celebrated not just the 10th anniversary of the weekends, but also the 100th anniversary of Maung Shaw Loo’s arrival in the U.S. To honor this occasion, many special guest were present at the celebratory weekend, such as Ambassador U Win of Burma, Miss Lizbeth Shaw Loo (the daughter of Maung Shaw Loo) and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
During the main banquet of the 10th anniversary weekend, the Burma-Bucknell Bowl was presented to Bucknell President Odgers by Ambassador U Win as a gift from the President of Burma. Mounted on teakwood lions, brought from Rangoon (which is modern day Yangon) for the occasion, the bowl rests on a large stand with a shield bearing the inscriptions: “The Burma-Bucknell Bowl, March 1, 1958, symbolizing 100 years of friendly relations between the people of Burma and Bucknell University, awarded annually in recognition of a significant contribution to the local brotherhood and good citizenship.”
The bowl was originally put on display with a special exhibit of Burmese textiles, lacquers, carvings, and photographs for a ten-day period after the 1958 weekend celebration. An interpretation of the exhibit and a showing of color films on Burma was also presented. Currently, the Burma-Bucknell Bowl is on display in Special Collections/University Archives reading room.
Burma-Bucknell Weekends are no longer held, however, Bucknell continues to recognize the importance of its historic relationship with Burma. Each spring, the University continues the tradition of awarding the Burma-Bucknell Award to the Bucknell individual or organization making a significant to intercultural and international understanding. which fits the inscription it bears. For further information about the Burma-Bucknell Bowl and to see it on display, please visit the Special Collections/University Archives on Lower Level 1 of the Bertrand Library.