Hiroshi Takaoka, the first Executive Vice President of Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute (1990- 2006) passed away in Kobe, Japan on Monday, October 15, 2012. He had been in ill health for some time.
He was born in Akita Prefecture in NW Japan on November 29, 1933 and grew up there with two sisters and three brothers. When he started his college studies, he went to the next prefecture to attend Niigata National University to major in psychology, but then he realized that he was more interested in English. Because of his high grades, he was given a scholarship. In 1958, he graduated from NNU with a B.A. in English and American Literature and began teaching at Seiryo Senior High School in Niigata City. He completed the post-graduate program at NNU in 1959.
In 1963, he became an East-West Scholar at the University of Hawaii and graduated in 1965 with an MA in the Teaching of English as a Second Language. His program included studies at Indiana University and Teachers College at Columbia University. While at the East-West Center at UH, he met a charming Japanese woman named Michiko Namura, and after some courting they decided to marry.
That year, 1965, he began teaching at Sanjo High School in Niigata. In 1969, he was appointed Assistant Professor of English at Mukogawa Women’s University and became Associate Professor in 1973. He was a member of the Student Life and Academic Affairs committees. In 1977, he was appointed Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. He became Professor of English in 1981 and joined the committee of the Graduate School of Letters in 1983. Then, in 1983-84, he was an Associate Research Fellow at Williams College in Massachusetts.
In 1986, he became Associate Chair of the English Department and began working on a plan for a study-abroad program for the department. In 1989, he was appointed to the committee for the International Exchange Office of MWU. While accompanying the Chancellor of MWU to the States to look at possible sites for a study-abroad campus, they visited Spokane to check on a small exchange program that MWU had started with the Holy Names Center at Fort Wright. The Chancellor fell in love with the campus, and, after conversations with local political, business and education leaders, an offer was made to buy the campus. It was accepted.
So, in 1990, Prof. Takaoka was appointed Executive Vice President of Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute. During his 16 years at MFWI, he oversaw the establishment and development of a strong and unique program of intensive English for MWU students with an excellent faculty and international accreditation. There was also remodeling and renewal of many historical campus buildings, the construction of a new library and the development of many outreach programs for students to meet Americans, to learn about American culture and to share Japanese culture, including a very successful homestay program.
He received a number of awards during his career, particularly for promoting general education and international education among Japanese students:
• 1999 - Award of Merit for Excellence in Education by the Governor of Hyogo Prefecture
• 1999 - Award of Merit for 30 Years of Excellence in Educational
Service by Mukogawa Gakuin
• 2000 - Award for Excellence in Educational Service in Junior College
by the Japanese Ministry of Education
• 2004 - Honorary Doctor of Laws by Gonzaga University.
• 2004 - Award for Excellence in Education for 35 years of service by
In March, 2007, after 16 years at MFWI, he retired from the Executive Vice Presidency and returned to MWU in Nishinomiya. There, he taught part-time in the English department and wrote a history of MFWI (in English and Japanese). It was published in 2010 for the 20th anniversary of MFWI’s founding. In October, 2010, he fully retired and was given the title Professor Emeritus.
He is survived by his wife, Michiko, two children, Fumi and Manabu, Manabu’s wife, Kyoko, and two grandchildren, Momo and Hana. He is also survived by both of his sisters and all three of his brothers.
A wake was held in Kobe on Tuesday evening, October 16 and a funeral on Wednesday, October 17, both at Maiko Heian-Saiten Hall in Kobe with officials of Mukogawa Gakuin and MWU and many colleagues from MWU in attendance, including three from MFWI, currently teaching in Nishinomiya.
On Saturday, November 17, at 10 a.m., friends and colleagues from the Spokane area are invited to join a memorial gathering in the Tsutakawa Memorial Hall at The Commons of MFWI. Refreshments will follow.
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