Maung Shaw Loo - Class of 1864
Bucknell's First International Student
Bucknell University's first international student, Maung Shaw Loo, Class of 1864, was the first Burmese native to study in the United States. He arrived in Pennsylvania in 1858 to study at the Academy, preparatory branch of the University at Lewisburg (renamed Bucknell University in 1886).
Born in 1839 in Moulmein, the eldest son of U Shwe Tha and Dwa Hla, the first converts of the pioneering Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson, the early years of Maung Shaw Loo were difficult. U Shwe Tha, a scholar of the Burmese language who tutored British officers, developed an addiction to alcohol that led to divorce in 1854. Because of these family problems, Shaw Loo grew up in the care of relatives.
At age fifteen, Shaw Loo went to Calcutta to pursue his studies which were interrupted three years later by the Sepoy Mutiny. He returned to Burma and was baptized in 1857 by U Shew Aye, pastor of the Burmese Baptist Church at the Royal Lakes. Shaw Loo's religious commitment linked him to the Baptist Mission in Moulmein where he was encouraged to continue his studies at the University of Lewisburg by Eugenio Kincaid, the missionary who had returned to Burma after aiding in the founding of the university. The university's Board of Trustees made Shaw Loo's education possible by voting to remit tuition and fees.
Maung Shaw Loo - in native dress
Mrs. Marilla Ingalls traveled with Shaw Loo on the voyage from England in 1858. It is believed that he paid for his passage by working as a cabin boy. Once Shaw Loo arrived in the United States, he made his way from New York to Lewisburg where he received a warm welcome. Adjusting quickly to American life, he became a brother of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, attended the Junior and Senior Class parties with a large group of his friends, and earned spending money by working as a gardener and caretaker for Dr. Thomas F. Curtis, Professor of Theology. Shaw Loo gave a number of informative talks on Burmese culture and customs that were well-received by Lewisburg audiences.
After his graduation from the university in 1864, Shaw Loo was admitted to the newly organized Charity Hospital Medical College in Cleveland, Ohio, where he obtained his degree in 1867. An appeal to collect surgical equipment and books published in the Medical and Surgical Reporter enabled him to begin medical practice in Burma. Before leaving the United States, he met President Andrew Johnson who provided a letter containing an excellent personal recommendation of Dr. Shaw Loo to the King of Burma.
Shaw Loo visited England and France briefly before returning to his country in 1868. For the next ten years, he assisted Dr. Ellen Mitchell at the Mission Hospital in Moulmein where he received practical training. Later, the government appointed him Science Master at the State High School in Rangoon. He was named Medical Adviser, and became a member of the school's governing body. The government also created a special position for Shaw Loo. He became Inspector of Schools for Science. In that capacity, he visited all high schools throughout Burma.
Shaw Loo then decided to devote his life to mission work and his own medical dispensary. He also started a family. His first wife, Lucy Pereira, bore four sons and three daughters. She died giving birth to her last child. Two years later, Shaw Loo married Daw Shwe, Head-Mistress of the American Baptist Mission Girls' School. They had a son and two daughters, the youngest of whom was Elizabeth (Daw Huin Aye), born in 1894.
Maung Shaw Loo fondly remembered his years at Lewisburg and kept in touch through correspondence. At age 83, in a 1922 letter to the Bucknell Alumni Monthly, he reported news of his family. One son was a doctor who worked for the Burmese railroad system. Elizabeth was teaching at the Government High School. Two of his grandsons had served in the military during World War I. One died in Mespot; the other returned from battle unharmed. A third grandson was in military training at Madras when the war ended.
In later years, Elizabeth maintained Shaw Loo's connection to Lewisburg. In 1958 she attended the Burma-Bucknell Weekend at her father's alma mater. Maung Shaw Loo died October 10, 1929, revered as a prominent physician and educator in his native country. He will also be remembered for the critical role he played in joining together the diverse worlds of Burma and Bucknell.
At right: Dr. Shaw Loo, M.A., M.D., about to address the Mass Meeting of the Judson Centennial Convention held in Moulmein on the 14th December 1913 at the Judson Hall. On the table are Dr. Judson's Burmese Holy Bible and his two dictionaries.