Tucked into a small booklet, they are words of thanks, appreciation and hope. “Seeing your message gave us courage. Thank you for your kindness,” one says.
The notes were written by students from Tohoku Gakuin University (TGU) in Sendai, Japan — one of the cities hit hardest by the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami. Eight TGU students presented the booklet to F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D., during their six-day visit to campus in August as part of TGU’s American Studies program.
It marked the fifth year TGU students have visited the College during their American trip.
The visit by TGU students took on special meaning in the wake of the disaster. “The outpouring of support from F&M was more notable during this year’s program,” says Candace Roper, director of the summer program and coordinator of International Studies at F&M. “It’s almost impossible for us to imagine what these students and their families have been through. One girl lost her house, and her father lost his business in the tsunami.”
During the spring semester, members of the F&M community sent more than 1,000 paper cranes to TGU in a show of support. The Asian Cultural Society collected $1,000 during the project and directed the contribution toward the 2011 TGU course at F&M. In addition, the College made a commitment to host all Japanese students registered in the program, regardless of their ability to cover the cost.
This year’s program marks the latest chapter in the close relationship between F&M and TGU that goes back more than a century. TGU was co-founded by Rev. William E. Hoy, an 1882 graduate of Franklin & Marshall. David Schneder, an 1880 graduate of the College, succeeded Masayoshi Oshikawa as the institution’s president in 1902 and held the post for the next 34 years. Sixteen alumni of F&M have served on the TGU faculty. Since 1981, F&M has sent its students to TGU for six weeks of intensive summer study of Japanese language, culture, politics, literature and history.
At the closing ceremony, each TGU student delivered a brief speech, thanking the College for its support. “You’ve given me an opportunity to grab my dreams. Thank you for your kindness,” said Chihiro Ogasawara.