Robert J. SmithRobert J. Smith of Ithaca died at Cayuga Medical Center on Tuesday, October 11, 2016, at the age of 89.
In 1944 at age seventeen, Bob dropped out of college, joined the U. S. Army, and began to study the Japanese language. Even though he had no prior knowledge of Japan, he soon acquired a passion for all aspects of Japanese life – not only language but also history, art, society, and culture - that sustained him for the rest of his life.
In 1949, after finishing his military service and earning his undergraduate degree at University of Minnesota, Bob came to Cornell as a graduate student in anthropology, and he resided in Ithaca for the rest of his life.
In 1955, upon completion of his Ph.D., he joined Cornell’s Department of Anthropology as a faculty member, and he taught in it for more than forty years. For nine of those years, he chaired the Department, and for another five years he chaired the Department of Asian Studies.
As a scholar, Bob became a distinguished authority in Japanese studies. He was the author, coauthor, or editor of a dozen books and a hundred articles, chapters, and essays on Japan. For Bob’s scholarly accomplishments he received wide recognition and numerous tributes. In 1974 he was named Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell. In 1988 he was elected president of the Association for Asian Studies. In 1993, he received from the Japanese government the Order of the Rising Sun.
Bob is survived by his loving wife of sixty-one years, Kazuko Smith.