A native New Yorker, Jeffrey Mass entered Hamilton College in 1958 and, in the course of reveling in the life of an undergraduate, was introduced to Japanese history by Professor Edwin B. Lee. Captivated by the subject, he wended his way to Japan following his graduation in 1962, and there, while teaching English, seized the opportunity to begin immersing himself in that country’s language and culture. Graduate study at New York University ensued, capped by a Ph.D. in premodern Japanese history from Yale. In 1973, Jeffrey Mass joined the faculty of Stanford University, where he attained a full professorship within eight years. Named the Yamato Ichihashi Professor of Japanese History and Civilization, he also held a concurrent continuing appointment at Oxford University, an arrangement unique for an American. The recipient of numerous scholarly awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Jeffrey Mass wrote extensively and in great depth on the political, social, and economic institutions of medieval Japan.The period he covered included the early age of the samurai, which was “pristinely Japanese” in terms of scholarship prior to that time.
The fruits of Jeffrey Mass’s scholarly labors were 10 books, all based upon impressive documentation, and all containing new interpretations and insights.They were hailed by his academic peers as models of meticulous scholarship, innovative, and rich and illuminating in detail.Credited with excelling in “the brick-by-brick dismantling of standard constructs,” thereby adding greatly to Western understanding of early Japanese history, he achieved recognition not only as a most productive scholar but also as the leading authority on medieval Japanese history in this country, if not the entire Western world.
Hamilton College, which takes considerable pride in the accomplishments of its alumni, is honored to have contributed to providing initial impetus to the scholarly achievements of Jeffrey Mass.We share with his family, colleagues, and friends our sadness at his untimely passing, but take consolation in the knowledge that his work will be continued by a new generation of scholars, the many doctoral students whom he taught at Stanford through the years.
Acting on the authority of the Board of Trustees, I am pleased to confer posthumously on Jeffrey P. Mass the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters of Hamilton College. In token whereof, we present this citation and diploma.
Eugene M. Tobin
May 20, 2001