The University of Massachusetts Boston honored Daisaku Ikeda, founder of Soka University and president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist association, with a doctor of humane letters degree, honoris causa for his efforts to build peace and promote cultural exchange and humanistic education. UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley presented the degree at a special ceremony held in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on November 21.
Chancellor Motley headed a delegation, including Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Winston Langley and Associate Provost and Director of International and Transnational Affairs Eunsook Hyan, in Japan to present the honorary degree and sign an academic exchange agreement with Soka University.
This brings to 300 the total number of honorary doctorates, honorary professorships, and equivalent titles conferred upon Mr. Ikeda by institutions of higher learning in some 50 countries.
“Daisaku Ikeda has an unflagging commitment to Buddhist ideals, and has made his life and vision a source of inspiration to others,” Chancellor Motley said. “We honor him as an inspiring Buddhist leader, peace builder, and global founder of institutes to better humanity.”
Mr. Ikeda had not been able to make it to the 42nd UMass Boston commencement exercises in June, so his degree had been conferred in absentia. This was a chance for Chancellor Motley and university officials to honor him in person. Soka Gakkai International paid for the trip.
“I am deeply honored. The academic honors I have accepted have all been on behalf of the members of SGI around the world,” Mr. Ikeda said. “This is recognition of their multifaceted contributions. As a private citizen, I will redouble my efforts to promote peace, cultural exchange and education."
Chancellor Motley and Soka University President Hideo Yamamoto also signed a formal memorandum of understanding between the two universities and an agreement to create a new study-abroad exchange. Two students from each institution will participate every year.
"May this be an auspicious and long-lasting friendship between our two institutions," Chancellor Motley said. "I look forward to seeing what we can create together."
Chancellor Motley and Mr. Ikeda agreed that, particularly in times of great turmoil and confusion, the role of education must be to foster people dedicated to the welfare of humankind.
Mr. Ikeda was president of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist association from 1960 to 1979. In 1975, he became the founding president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), which now has 12 million members around the world. He also founded the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue.
He is the author of numerous works on Buddhist philosophy as well as over 50 published dialogues with leading thinkers from different cultures around the world.