Haruyoshi “Yoshi” Udagawa ’74 | St. Lawrence University Commencement

Haruyoshi “Yoshi” Udagawa ’74

Remarks to Graduates, May 20, 2018

Thank you very much, President Fox. Good morning, trustees, faculty, alumni and class of 2018. I am honored to be awarded with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from St Lawrence University today and delighted to be able to attend this wonderful Laurentian tradition with my wife Aiko. I am especially grateful to have this opportunity to address you who are graduating. Today begins your new life; it is a day for celebrating. Congratulations!

Today is also a day for remembering. I remember the many people who in the early 1970’s gave me the precious chance to study at St. Lawrence University. I especially want to mention my mother, who sustained me in so many ways while sharing my home until she passed away at the age of 90. I also want to thank my wife Aiko who has patiently supported me for more than 40 years. If not for their understanding, I can’t imagine that I would be here today.

Today is also a day for giving thanks. I cannot put into words my gratitude to St. Lawrence University for having offered me 45 years ago the wonderful chance to study here. All those many years ago in 1972, when I was a high-school English teacher having earned a BA and MA from a Japanese university, I made the most far-reaching decision of my life, which was to come and study here at St. Lawrence.

The 1970’s might be considered a very difficult and unstable time for many reasons including the Vietnam War, the oil crisis and much social turmoil. At the time, my friends around your age each had his own draft number. As for myself, all I could do was to concentrate on my studies, no more, no less. I didn’t go out once on a Friday night my entire first year. I regret it to this day.

During my first year on campus, I felt invisible. One day when I found a pile of clothes lying on my bed, I learned just how wrong I’d been. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was doing there. Later I understood. My friends had decided to donate clothes for me to change into. The fact was, though, I just hadn’t cared what I wore every day. If nothing else, the episode proved to me that at least my clothes were visible. In my second year, I’m happy to say, I became visible in a different and better sense. 

Thinking back, I want to thank the many staff, faculty, friends and their family members who supported me in those days. But for their encouragement and kindness, I could not have survived to finish my studies here. I wish I could name all of them. I will never forget their tremendous generosity.

Soon after graduating from St. Lawrence in 1974, I began my career as a college teacher at Toyo University, where I continued to work until retiring 5 years ago. If not for my career at Toyo, I would not be standing before you now. Toyo University, which numbers 36,000 students, is one of the oldest private institutions in Japan, having been established in 1887. Today, I am proud to tell you that in 2013 it was designated by the government as one of Japan’s “Super Global Universities.” With luck, it will soon be an Asian hub for global leaders. My career had much to do with its becoming a Super Global University.

I began working in the year 1998 to establish a new department that would foster Global citizens. I worked to ensure that increasing numbers of Toyo students would have experiences similar to the one I had at St. Lawrence. Since it started in the year 2000, nearly 2000 students have graduated from the department, which integrates local and global awareness. I am proud to say that the department was one of the fruits that grew from seeds planted in me while at St. Lawrence. The department is a wonderful product that integrates the ideas and training I received from two great universities.

My experience was not unique by any means. St. Lawrence University boasts a wonderful liberal arts tradition. Our lives depend on what we integrate into ourselves. Life should be appreciated by quality not quantity, just as St. Lawrence education encourages. I know each of you will continue this noble tradition. Life is long.

Allow me to conclude by introducing you to a special lady. Her name was Ms. Tetsuko Suzuki and she graduated from St. Lawrence 90 years ago in 1931. In 1975, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate. Ms. Suzuki was a well-known translator as well as the principal of a famous high school for girls in Tokyo. She translated into Japanese the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The stories she told of her St. Lawrence days in the 1930’s were filled with adventure. It was thrilling, for example, to hear her describe her journey from Japan to St. Lawrence, a trip that at the time took 3 weeks: 17 days from Yokohama to San Francisco by ship and another 4 days from San Francisco to Canton by railroad. I wish I had time to describe it the way she did. I am greatly honored to receive the same degree as Tetsuko Suzuki, and to note that both of us were awarded this honor exactly 44 years after we graduated.

It must be the hand of providence!

I hope that you will make this day an occasion to celebrate, to remember and to give thanks to the many people who have directed and supported you. Congratulations! Parents and graduating students, Bon Voyage!

Thank you very much.