- Distinguished International Service Award (2002)
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: Patrick O'Meara
- John W. Ryan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Programs and Studies (1997)
- Fulbright Award (1971)
Born in 1937 in Columbus, Ohio to George Leedom Wilson and Dorothy M. Wilson, George and his family followed his Army Colonel father though many posts, including Berlin during the Blockade. After earning an AB from Princeton in 1958, he served as a guide at the American National Exhibition in Moscow during the summer of 1959, and there he met his future wife, Joyce, who was also a guide. When he returned from the Soviet Union, George began a lifelong study of Asia, completing both AM (1960) and PhD (1965) degrees at Harvard.
His research interests were modern Japanese intellectual and cultural history, nationalism and revolution in Japan, and East Asian history. He taught Japanese history for 50 years, 35 of them at IU. He also taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, the University of Kentucky and Harvard. Most recently, in retirement, he challenged and learned from students at IU’s Hutton Honors College. In addition to his teaching and research, George fostered a culture of international awareness around the world. He was instrumental in the development of the IU East Asian Studies Center, which he directed for 15 years. He served as the first IU Dean for International Programs and pioneered the establishment of American studies programs in European and Asian universities.
A member of the Midwest Universities Consortium for International Activities (MUCIA), he became the board’s secretary, traveling in Asia and the Middle East to cement university connections. He was a consultant for the Ford foundation, reporting on the use of Foundation funds at US universities. A 50-year member of the American Historical Association, he chaired the Conference on Asian History for 22 years. George was also a founding member of the Japan-America Society of Indiana, and in 2003 he was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government, for distinguished achievement in the fields of international relations and the promotion of Japanese culture.
He wrote or edited several books, including Radical Nationalist in Japan: Kita Ikki, 1883-1937 (1969; later translated into Japanese); Crisis Politics in Prewar Japan (1970); MUCIA, a Multiuniversity Approach to International Development, 1964-1980 (1981); and Patriots and Redeemers in Japan: Motives in the Meiji Restoration (1992). Along with his academic interests, George was a devoted armchair sportsman with an encyclopedic knowledge of statistics about baseball, football, basketball and Japanese Sumo wrestling – an interest cultivated over his many visits to Japan.