Wiant, Bliss Leighton

1927 - 2017
Agriculturist
Methodist
Sarawak

Bliss Leighton Wiant was born in 1927 in Beijing, China, one of four children of missionary parents. His father, Bliss Wiant, was a talented man and a brilliant musician and songwriter. 

The younger Wiant received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio State University and a Master of Science in Agriculture from Cornell University. From 1946-1949, he served in the United Nations Brethren Service Unit in China, helping to reconstruct post-war agriculture. He then served a term as an agricultural vocations teacher and principal in Luzon, the Philippines.

Wiant served in Sarawak, Malaysia, from 1958 to 1972. He was stationed at the Bukit Lan Methodist Agriculture Centre where he taught agriculture and farm work practices to students of Chinese descent. The Foochow pioneers had arrived in Sibu in 1903 and by the 1950s, two whole generations had been living in the Rajang Valley. 

Bukit Lan’s undulating riverine deltaic land made it very suitable for tropical agriculture. Fruits, vegetables, rice and even oil palm had been grown there to great success. Some cattle and other domesticated animals were also reared there. The aim had been to make it a model farm for the entire Third Division area around Sibu, Sarawak.

At Bukit Lan, Wiant also taught Iban students from the neighbouring longhouses such as Bawang Assan. 

During the Wiants’ time, the block of secondary classrooms in Bukit Lan was built, sponsored by a German Christian organisation via contributions to The Daily Bread magazine. An amount of US$25,000 was raised for the building. However, only US$10,000 was spent, resulting in the construction of 11 classrooms. 

Mrs Wiant (the former Dorothy Dean) was born and raised in Marion, New York, and had a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Cornell University. After graduation, she spent a year in Juneau, Alaska, as a youth director working with Inuit Indian and white teenagers.

Following that assignment, Mrs Wiant was an International Farm Youth Exchange delegate to Australia for six months, where she lived and worked with farm families, before joining her husband in his work in the mission field in Southeast Asia.

However, the Communist insurgency which occurred just after the formation of Malaysia and the independence of Sarawak within the Malaysian Federation, forced the Wiant family to return to the United States in 1972, much to the disappointment of Wiant’s students at Bukit Lan. Wiant was even “blacklisted” by the Communists, thus putting his life in danger.

The Wiants had three children: Rebecca (Wiant McGinnis), Daniel and Matthew. Wiant died on September 2, 2017 at the age of 89. [1]

 

 

Notes

  1. ^ https://ne-np.facebook.com/DeanGenealogy/posts/bliss-leighton-wiant-obit-biooct-31-1927-sept-2-2017bliss-leighton-wiant-leighto/1679743078726787/

© SCAC. This article from Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills is reproduced with permission of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, The Methodist Church in Malaysia, with minor editing for clarity and brevity. 

[Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills 1 and 2 are compiled by Wong Meng Lei (also chief editor), edited by Tumi Ngae, and translated by Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, and Chang Yi. Book 2 translators are Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, Chang Yi and Ting Kong Sing.]