One Year of the Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center

Published: October 31, 2023 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 3 minutes

Woman speaking from a podium with hands clasped

The Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center at Southern Utah University celebrated its one-year anniversary while hosting the Chinese Moon Festival this October. With members of the campus community in attendance, the event was a night of cultural learning and understanding, as well as a celebration of Helen Foster Snow and her remarkable humanitarian contributions. Her legacy continues to impact and inspire the people of Cedar City. 

Named after revered journalist, author, librarian and international diplomat Helen Foster Snow, the Center was created to honor her lifelong bridge-building work between China and the United States, as well as her literary prowess. Born in Cedar City in 1907, Snow departed for China in 1931 and lived there through the duration of World II. Throughout her life, her work was a testament to her capacity for cross-cultural and ideological collaboration, which earned her two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Helen Foster Snow was a great example of working across cultures and finding the common ground where we can celebrate humanity together, and gain a deeper appreciation for our differences whilst recognizing our similarities, ” said Mindy Benson, president of SUU.   

In 2009, 12 years after Snow’s passing, Chinese dignitaries brought a 7-foot tall bronze statue of her to be dedicated in her hometown of Cedar City. The sculpture resides in Main Street Park to this day, continuing to honor her life and legacy. Undoubtedly, she was a remarkable woman, a perfect role model for the Center.

“It is wonderful to see so many people today continuing in Helen’s footsteps, building bridges among diverse cultures and people, and carrying on her legacy,” said Dr. Wen Ouyang, executive director of the Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center. “The Center is a platform for cultural activities and language learning that promote understanding and collaboration, and will foster additional economic development links between Utah and China.”

The Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center teaches Chinese language and culture, China-related research, and Utah-China economic development. The Center provides Chinese courses at Canyon View Middle School, Canyon View High School and Cedar High School. Annual cultural celebrations for the Cedar City and campus communities have also been a significant catalyst for increasing cultural understanding.

“Helen would be tickled at the sense of goodwill here in this room tonight,” said Dr. Stephen Allen, associate vice president for International Affairs. “Utah is fortunate because of the value we place on learning languages in the classroom and helping prepare young people for a world that is changing and where diplomacy is more important than ever.” 

The evening’s events included several musical numbers, multiple informational videos–including a recorded interview with Helen Foster Snow herself, and comments from many individuals involved with the Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center, including a recorded statement from Utah Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson. 

Paired with the celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival, the one-year anniversary of the Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center banquet basked in the legacy of Snow, and in the light of the symbolic lanterns that adorned the Great Hall of the Hunter Alumni Center as part of the festival. 

The Chinese Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, comes from the Chinese legend about the origin of the moon goddess, Chang’e, and her ascent to immortality. Today, the Moon Festival is also celebrated as a harvest festival, similar to the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Along with gathering for a delicious meal, the Moon Festival consists of eating desserts, giving gifts and flying lanterns to pray for happiness. 

The advisory board for the Center includes SUU President Mindy Benson, Dr. Stephen Allen, Mr. Adam Foster, president of the Helen Foster Snow Foundation and great nephew of Snow; Dr. Lance Hatch, Superintendent of Iron County School District; Professor Craig Jones, SUU retired political science professor; Mary Pearson, SUU CFO/Vice President of Finance and Evan Vickers, Utah state senator.

The Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center is located in the Office of International Affairs at SUU. Watch the recorded celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Helen Foster Snow Cultural Center.

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Nikki Koontz