Columbia University

It was a performance art piece that became famous: A woman who felt that Columbia University had mishandled her charge of rape against a fellow student turned that anger into her senior arts thesis, a yearlong project in which she carried a 50-pound mattress whenever she was on the Morningside Heights campus.

The woman, Emma Sulkowicz, won national acclaim and was largely embraced by her fellow students, who often helped her carry her burden, which she even brought to a graduation ceremony in May 2015.

The accused man, Paul Nungesser, who was cleared of responsibility in the case by a university disciplinary panel, found himself alternately hounded and ostracized, and condemned at a campus rally and on fliers posted around campus. A month before he and Ms. Sulkowicz received their degrees, he sued Columbia, accusing it of supporting what he called an “outrageous display of harassment and defamation” by giving Ms. Sulkowicz academic credit for her project.

Columbia said late this week that it had reached a settlement with Mr. Nungesser, the terms of which it did not disclose. But the university said in a statement: “Columbia recognizes that after the conclusion of the investigation, Paul’s remaining time at Columbia became very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience. Columbia will continue to review and update its policies toward ensuring that every student — accuser and accused, including those like Paul who are found not responsible — is treated respectfully and as a full member of the Columbia community.”

Wm. Theodore de Bary, a venerable Columbia University educator and distinguished scholar of China who was credited with broadening the way colleges nationwide study Asia, died on Friday at his home in Tappan, N.Y. He was 97.

His death was announced by Robert Hornsby, a spokesman for the university.

Professor de Bary was an internationally esteemed Sinologist with a shelf of at least 30 books to his credit, either written or edited by him, and a bevy of academic awards and honors, including the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama.

More locally, on the university campus in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, he was the consummate Columbia man — “one of the towering figures of modern Columbia history,” as Columbia College Today declared in 2013, a courtly figure “with the bow-tied elegance and comportment of a seasoned ambassador.”

As an editor, Professor de Bary presented thinkers from various Asian cultures in their own words in dozens of books that became standards in the field, elevating Asian studies far beyond Columbia to a prominence once reserved for European scholarship. In 1987, The New York Times reported that his “Sources of Chinese Tradition” had been the fourth-best-selling nonfiction book in universities over the last 25 years.

 His particular focus was in explicating the thoughts of the great Chinese sage Confucius as they were interpreted over the centuries. The Journal of Chinese Religions in 1987 praised his explorations of how the Confucian belief system became “a major component of the moral and spiritual fiber of the peoples of East Asia.”

Professor de Bary offered detailed evidence that Confucian thought, as reinterpreted in 17th-century China, had a radical core that justified revolutionary action. It was a view diametrically opposed to that of China’s most consequential revolutionary, Mao Zedong, who saw Confucius as the consummate reactionary.

In a 1988 lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor de Bary wryly noted that Mao, after decades of censoring any mention of Confucius, had to revive the philosopher’s memory in the 1960s in order to revile him.