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Roger Greene

Roger Greene was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1881, while his missionary parents were on furlough in United States. Daniel and Mary Jane Greene had devoted their adult lives to bringing Western-style education to Japan. As a result of their work, Roger Greene and his seven siblings were brought up in Japan and developed strong ties to the Far East.

Greene returned to Massachusetts to pursue his education at Harvard University. After receiving a graduate degree in 1902, Greene joined the U.S. Consular Service and worked for twelve years in a variety of locations that included Brazil, Japan and China. In 1914 Green left to join the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), where his brother Jerome Greene served as Secretary.

Greene’s first position with the RF was with the 1914 China Commission. This commission, which also included Harry Pratt Judson of the University of Chicago and Dr. Francis Peabody of Harvard Medical School, surveyed the medical and public health needs of China and determined the blueprint for future RF activities in the country. As a result of the China Commission’s survey, the RF created the China Medical Board (CMB), which was instrumental in modernizing Chinese medical education. Based on his work with the Commission, and his own knowledge of Chinese language and culture, Greene was named Resident Director of the CMB in China in 1914, Director of the CMB in 1921, and Acting Director of Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and Vice President of the RF in the Far East in 1927.

While his work in China had garnered him accolades and promotions within the Foundation, his relationship with the organization soured over changes in its policies toward China. Greene also advocated against the imposition of Western Christianity in Chinese medical education, arguing that the Department of Religion at PUMC was expendable as the Foundation faced budget cuts during the Great Depression. Finding little support for these ideas among his American colleagues, Greene resigned from the CMB in 1934 and from PUMC in 1935.

Following his resignation from the RF, Greene maintained his interest in China. He lobbied for American aid to the country following its invasion by Japan, and during World War II he served as a consultant to the State Department’s Division of Cultural Relations. He also promoted the study of East Asian languages and cultures in America.

Roger Greene died in 1947 in West Palm Beach, Florida and is buried in Westborough, Massachusetts. His papers can be accessed at Houghton Library at Harvard University.