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New French Conversation Group Chair

Christel McDonald and Marilyn Wong Gleysteen.

AAFSW welcomes Marilyn Wong Gleysteen as the new French Conversation Group Chair!

Marilyn Wong Gleysteen is an art historian and a fourth-generation Chinese born in Hawaii, where as a child she studied piano and viola. After graduating from Punahou School (’60) and Mount Holyoke College (’64), she entered the program in Chinese Art & Archaeology at Princeton University, where she received her doctorate in 1983. Her studies in French and German language began at Punahou and continued at Mt. Holyoke, while formal study of Chinese and Japanese began during her graduate years at Princeton. Her first trip abroad to Asia for language study was in 1965, and from 1966-68 she worked at the Palace Museum in Taipei, where she made a brief start at learning the guqin, the ancient seven-stringed zither. She returned to the US in 1968 to complete her studies, and from 1973-75 was assistant curator of Chinese art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She has taught Chinese art & archaeology in New Haven, New York City, and Washington, DC. Her publications on Chinese painting and calligraphy include co-authoring with her first husband, Shen C.Y. Fu, Studies in Connoisseurship (1973) and Traces of the Brush: Studies in Chinese Calligraphy (1977).

In 1981 while teaching at George Washington University, she met and married William H. Gleysteen, Jr, who had retired as US Ambassador to South Korea (1978-81). They moved to New York, where she taught Chinese art history at Columbia University (’84-88), and where Amb. Gleysteen was appointed as Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (’87-’89), and later as President of The Japan Society (’89-95), before returning to Washington, DC., to write his political memoirs. Ambassador Gleysteen continued to work at the State Department until his death in 2002, and published Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence: Carter and Korea in Crisis (1999). Their daughter Anna (Barnard ’08) is in her second year of law school at George Mason University.

Appreciation of Chinese art and all of the arts of Asia and the West is still her major pastime, but she has retired from academic research and full-time teaching to pursue her interests in music, dance, and opera. In 1999 she attended the symposium accompanying “Resonance of the Qin” and the next year began serious study of the guqin with Master Yuan Jungping of Taipei. Her qin-related activities include acting as corresponding secretary of the New York Qin Society. In 2002 she performed at the 2nd Annual Jiangsu Province Qin Conference, participating in the fall trip with society members to Mt. Huang and environs, as well as visiting qin players in Hong Kong. In October of 2004, Dr. Gleysteen was invited to perform the guqin at the Library of Congress to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Asian American Association of the Library. In the summer of 2005, she traveled to Beijing, where she met the qin-maker Wang Peng and paid a call on the connoisseur and antiquarian Wang Shixiang who before his death inscribed the name on her new qin. Since 2005 Dr. Gleysteen has continued her qin studies in Hong Kong with Master Sou Sitai traveling to her home in Hawaii, and to Hong Kong, once or twice a year for intensive lessons.

Since her husband’s death Dr. Gleysteen has also been active in the cultural activities of DACOR, and in 2004 became Chair of the Music Committee, presenting for the Huston Musicales Sunday recitals of classical chamber music at Bacon House. This year 2016 marks her twelfth year of this well-received series. She remembers with fondness her teachers of French, all of whom were native speakers. In particular, in addition to the challenges and delights of French literature, starting with “Le Petit Prince”, she was taught the insights of explication de texte. She laments, however, her lack of fluency in the spoken language, as she was not able to travel to France until 2003 when she made her first trip to Paris and the Cote d’Azur with her daughter, and then again in 2006 when they traveled to Provence to “follow in the footsteps of Cezanne” for the 200th anniversary of his death.

Currently Dr. Gleysteen enjoys French classes with Mme. Evelyne Bonhomme. Through the kind introduction of Mrs. Susanne Newberry, Marilyn joined the French Conversation Group of AAFSW in 2004, and is now pleased to succeed Mrs. Christel McDonald who was the chair of the French Group for 23 years.