The news of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami was met with grief on the Ursinus campus and an urgent desire to help. Ursinus students, faculty and staff worked to raise awareness and funding for our sister school, Tohoku Gakuin University, located in Sendai, Japan, near the epicenter of the earthquake. Although Tohoku Gakuin University (TGU) is too far inland to have been directly affected by the tsunami, its community suffered great losses. Ursinus and TGU have had a long and productive partnership involving student exchanges, summer programs at both institutions, and faculty exchanges.
“Many of us in the Ursinus community, including current and retired faculty, college staff, and current students and alumni, were shocked and saddened by the news and images of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan, the worst in Japan’s history,” says Professor and History Department Chair Ross Doughty, who was Director of the Ursinus-TGU Summer American Studies Program at Ursinus from 1980 to 1990 and again in 1993. “Those of us who have a long relationship with Tohoku Gakuin University knew that, if the situation were reversed, and it had been our region that was suffering such a catastrophe, our friends in Sendai would immediately help us in any way they could. That spurred many faculty, staff, and students to organize the Ursinus Fund for TGU Relief and contribute their own money and time to the relief effort,” says Doughty, who also led the Ursinus Summer Study in Japan program at TGU in 1985 and was an Ursinus Exchange Professor at TGU in 1987.
“As a result of Tohoku Night and subsequent fund-raising activities, the Fund for TGU had reached a total of $5,000 as of the first of May,” says Associate Professor of Japanese and East Asian Studies Matthew Mizenko. “That night, faculty and students talked about their personal experiences associated with TGU.” A UCARE event will be held in May for the TGU Fund.
Seika Ueda 2011 is from Tokyo. “I have my family and all my friends in Japan so my greatest concern was their safety,” Ueda says. “I learned they were safe, but I was still shocked at the horrible news about the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear power plant accident. So much of the country was damaged and so many precious lives were lost, I couldn’t help thinking about the role of myself as Japanese.”
Ueda, president of Japanese Club at Ursinus, brainstormed with Dr. Mizenko on fund-raising ideas including the plan to sell t-shirts when the students of Tamagawa University came to the campus from Tokyo for the drum and dance performance. All the funds were sent to Japanese Red Cross and Tohoku Gakuin University. “I hope our help supports people in Japan and the country restores as soon as possible,” says Ueda, who is a Media and Communication Studies major.
As of April 25, the New York Times reported the official death toll in Japan had been raised to 14,133, and more than 13,346 people were listed as missing. The final toll is expected to reach nearly 20,000. More than 130,000 people remained housed in temporary shelters. By K.C.