Wm. Theodore de Bary began his career as a teacher at Columbia in 1949 when he undertook to develop the undergraduate general education program in East Asian Studies. For this he developed basic source readings in Asian Civilizations for India, China, Japan, (and now Korea). These volumes dealing with the major traditions of Asia, published in 1958-60, have seen wide use in colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad. They have now been supplemented by over 140 other texts and translations for use in general education on Asia.

As chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures from 1960-66 and as first director of the National Defense Language and Area Center he led in a major expansion of the language programs in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

From 1969-70 he was President of the Association for Asian Studies. From 1969-71 he served as the first chair of the Executive Committee of the University Senate.

  From 1971-78 as Provost of the University, among many other duties, Dr. de Bary assisted in the renovation and expansion of the East Asian Library and established the Heyman Center for the Humanities, which includes among other programs, offices and a reading room for the Human Rights Program.

In 1974 Dr. de Bary was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1999 to the American Philosophical Association. He has received honorary degrees form St. Lawrence University, Loyola University of Chicago, and Columbia.

Professor de Bary's scholarly work has focused on the major religious and intellectual traditions of East Asia, especially Confucianism in China, Japan, and Korea. In recent years among the more than twenty-five works authored by him, he has dealt principally with the issues of civil society and human rights in China. The most recent of these books is Asian Values and Human Rights, Harvard University Press, 1998; Nobility and Civility: Asian Ideals of Leadership and the Common Good, published by Harvard Press 2004..