Obituary: Dru Curtis Gladney

Father, esteemed professor, Fulbright scholar, researcher, author

Dru Curtis Gladney, Ph.D., died unexpectedly while snowboarding at Mt. Baldy on one of his favorite holidays, St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17. He was 65.

Dru Gladney was born in Pomona on Nov. 3, 1956. Dru was the president of Pomona College’s Pacific Basin Institute and was a professor of anthropology. He was formerly the inaugural dean of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.

He attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where he received his B.A. in philosophy and religious studies. He then attended Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, where he earned master’s degrees in both theology and cross-cultural studies. He continued his education at the University of Washington, earning an M.A. in anthropology and a Ph.D. in social anthropology.

He held faculty positions or post-doctoral positions at Harvard University; the University of Southern California; Kings College, Cambridge; and Princeton University. A Fulbright Research Scholar to China and Turkey, for decades Gladney conducted field research in western China, central Asia and Turkey. He eventually settled in Hawaii, where he continued teaching at the University of Hawaii. He returned to his home town of Pomona in 2006, where at Pomona College, he served a term as the chair of the anthropology department.

He published various books on his research and expertise of peoples and cultures along the Silk Road, and was often referred to for his expertise on China’s Uyghurs and Chinese Muslim minorities.

While living in China, he met, then eventually married his loving wife, Jing Qian Gladney. He is survived by his spouse; by the light of his life and only daughter, Laetitia Vivian Gladney; and his siblings Charles Curtis Gladney of Bend, Oregon, Chere Lynn Vanni of Mt. Shasta, California, and Neta Barbara Gladney of Paso Robles, California.

“Dru loved all of his six nieces and four nephews and made it his personal mission to encourage family togetherness at every opportunity,” his family shared. “He was especially proud of his father, B. Curtis Gladney, who flew cargo planes from India to China, over ‘the hump’ during World War II. Dru researched that period of his father’s life for a biography that remains uncompleted.”

Gladney was a skillful and avid surfer who rode waves all over the world, and became an ardent snowboarder over the past several years. He was always an adventurer, traveler, outdoorsman, collector of books and Asian rugs, and he loved to share his many experiences. “Dru was the glue to many friends and family,” his family added.

As a distinguished colleague wrote, “He will always be remembered for how he always looked for occasions to bring people together, break bread, and tell stories”.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at Little Bridges, Pomona College, 150 E. Fourth St., Claremont, CA 91711.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his name to The Student Emergency Fund for Pomona College, at; The Surfrider Foundation at; or The International Rescue Committee at


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