On This Day

The Day When a US President Praised a Student From Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 1 October 2020

Yangon — On this day in 1867, the 17th US president, Andrew Johnson, wrote a letter addressed to King Mindon of Myanmar (then Burma) informing him that Burmese student Maung Shaw Loo would return after studying at two US universities, calling him a trusted friend of the country.

Born in Mawlamyine, the Mon ethnic Maung Shaw Loo was the first Burmese student known to have studied in the USA. He left Burma in 1857 aged 17 for studies in Calcutta. During the Indian sepoy uprising in 1858, he stowed away on a ship for America.

In the US he performed odd jobs before studying Greek, Latin, philosophy, history and science at the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell) in Pennsylvania. He was Lewisburg’s first international student.

He then studied for three years at Cleveland Medical College, becoming the first western-trained Burmese physician.

Johnson, who succeeded after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, wrote a letter of recommendation for Dr. Shaw Loo when he returned home.

King Mindon, who had formal ties with US presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, received Dr. Shaw Loo and offered him a position in the royal capital, Mandalay. Dr. Shaw Loo, however, returned to his native Mawlamyine and served the poor both as a physician and educator. He died aged 90 in Mawlamyine in 1929.

Ninety years after Dr. Shaw Loo’s arrival at Lewisburg, the university decided to recognize its unique and long-standing ties with Myanmar by creating Burma-Bucknell Weekends.

From 1949 to 1966, there were 16 Burma-Bucknell Weekends held in which Burmese students from nearby colleges and personnel from the Burmese Embassy were invited as a symbol of friendship between the country and Bucknell.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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