E. Gene Smith (TBRC Founder and Senior Research Scholar) was born in Ogden, Utah in 1936. He studied at a variety of institutions of higher education in the United States: Adelphi College, Hobart College, University of Utah, and the University of Washington in Seattle.
In 1959, the Rockefeller Foundation, seeing the opportunity to promote Tibetan studies, funded the establishment of nine centers of excellence worldwide, one of which was the University of Washington.
Under the auspices of the Rockefeller grant to the Far Eastern and Russian Institute, nine Tibetans were brought to Seattle for teaching and research, including the Ven. Deshung Rinpoche Kunga Tenpai Nyima, the tutor to the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang. Smith had the good fortune to study Tibetan culture as well as Buddhism with Deshung Rinpoche and the rest of the Tibetan teachers at Seattle from 1960 to 1964. He lived with the Sakya family for five years.