Far from the familiar front lawn of the Campus Center, where the University of Massachusetts Boston usually awards its degrees, an impressive milestone was reached last month when a doctorate of humane letters was given to a long-waiting recipient – in Japan.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Winston Langley, and Associate Provost and Director of the Office of International and Transnational Affairs Eunsook Hyun traveled to Tokyo, Japan on November 18 to present an honorary degree to Buddhist leader and scholar Daisaku Ikeda.
Ikeda, 82, had been unable to make it to the university's 42nd Commencement ceremonies in June to accept his doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa. His degree was conferred in absentia.
But because the degree from UMass Boston was his 300th such honor, Ikeda and his staff at Soka Gakkai International, the Buddhist organization of which he is president, wished to commemorate the occasion accordingly – and agreed to cover all expenses to bring Chancellor Motley, Provost Langley, and Associate Provost Hyun to Japan for a mini-reenactment of the conferral ceremony.
Ikeda was selected to receive an honorary doctorate for his accomplishments as a scholar and leader, and his commitment to spreading peace and learning worldwide. In his long career with Soka Gakkai International, Ikeda expanded the organization to include 12 million members in 192 countries and territories. He founded several educational, cultural and research institutions, such as Soka University, in Tokyo and Alisa Viejo, California, the Fuji Art Museum in Tokyo, and the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue in Cambridge.
Chancellor Motley, Provost Langley, and Associate Provost Hyun left Boston on Thursday, November 18, and arrived in Tokyo the next day. On Sunday, the delegation met with President Hideo Yamamoto of Soka University to sign a formal memorandum of understanding between the two universities, including an agreement to create a new study-abroad exchange. Under the terms of the agreement, two students each year from UMass Boston will study at Soka University, and two students from Soka University will attend UMass Boston.
“This agreement is an invitation: to lessen the physical distance between us by creating a closeness through friendship and shared learning. The primary source for this closeness will be the entrusting of our most precious resources – our students – to the other," Chancellor Motley said. "The personal growth and learning our students will experience during their time in Tokyo will change their lives, and I envy them for the incredible opportunities that attending Soka University will provide.“
Later on in the afternoon, the honorary degree from UMass Boston was presented to Ikeda, in a moving and carefully arranged ceremony. Ikeda accepted his 300th honorary doctorate “on behalf of members of Soka Gakkai International around the world," in “recognition of their multifaceted contributions.”
"I will redouble my efforts to promote peace, cultural exchange and education," he said.
During their whirlwind weekend in Tokyo, Chancellor Motley and his wife, Angela Motley, Provost Langley, and Associate Provost Hyun were also treated to a tempura dinner, a performance at the Min-On Concert Association, and a tour of Soka schools, where students were given the opportunity to ask questions of their American visitors.
To read more about Ikeda, click here.