The Deer Park Buddhist Center and Monastery in Oregon, Wisconsin is headed by Geshe Lhundub Sopa, the first Tibetan tenured professor in an American University who taught Buddhist philosophy, language and culture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for 30 years. During that time, Geshe Sopa trained many of this country’s first generation of respected Buddhist scholars and translators, including Jeffrey Hopkins, José Ignacio Cabezón, and John Makransky.
Buddhism entered the US during the 19th century with the arrival of the first immigrants from East Asia. The first Buddhist temple was established in San Francisco in 1853 by Chinese Americans.
The first prominent US citizen to publicly convert to Buddhism was Colonel Henry Steel Olcott in 1880 who is still honored in Sri Lanka for his Buddhist revival efforts.
An event that contributed to the strengthening of Buddhism in the US was the .
The first Tibetan Buddhist lama to have American students was Geshe Ngawang Wangyal, a Kalmyk-Mongolian of the Gelug lineage, who came to the United States in 1955 and founded the "Lamaist Buddhist Monastery of America" in New Jersey in 1958.
Among his students were the future western scholars Robert Thurman, Jeffrey Hopkins, Alexander Berzin and Anne C. Klein.
Other early arrivals included Dezhung Rinpoche, a Sakya lama who settled in Seattle, in 1960, and Tarthang .