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Meidai Alumni Connections

  • Read in Japanese
  • 2017/07/28

Institute of International Education and Exchange

Designated Prof. Atsuko Tsuji

On July 31, 2017, at a lecture hall of the University of Malaya in Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur, Professor Toshihide Maskawa gave a talk on "The Journey to a Nobel Prize." He happens to be a Meidai graduate and Nobel laureate for his work in theoretical physics. Naoshi Sugiyama, dean of the School of Science at Nagoya University, was also there as a veteran interviewer, having been with him on stage more than twenty times before. To answer questions from University of Malaya professors, he elicited stories from Prof. Maskawa that included memories of his childhood and early student years, the research that led to his Nobel Prize, and advice for young people, all mixed with little-known episodes of his life. The student audience in the great hall listened intently, transfixed, and asking many questions.


Prof. Toshihide Maskawa speaking in front of a picture of Prof. Sakata, his university teacher


Lecture audience with Prof. Maskawa


Nobel laureates receive an endless stream of requests to speak in Japan and the world. It is not possible to say yes to all of them, and it's sometimes a stretch to satisfy overseas requests, but apparently this special lecture arose from an invitation by the Malaysia branch of the Nagoya University Alumni Association, which was established in February 2016.

For about a week starting at the end of July, university president Seiichi Matsuo and other officials visited Malaysia and Thailand. This lecture by Prof. Maskawa was one of the featured events. For Meidai alumni living now in Malaysia, it was surely a treat to be at this event and be introduced as graduates of the Nobel laureate-producing university in front of students of the University of Malaya. I was able to go along for these visits and meet many Meidai alumni who are actively serving as bridges between their home country and Japan.

Since it was created in 2002, the president of Nagoya University Alumni Association has been none other than Shoichiro Toyoda, the honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation. The day before I departed for Malaysia, on July 28, he gave a lecture in Nagoya entitled "Making Things, Making People" as an Aichi Invention Day event. Invention Day is associated with August 1, the day that Sakichi Toyoda (known as the king of Japanese inventors) received his patent for the first automated power loom. This special lecture was presented also to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth, and it was quite a success, with satellite venues even set up for audiences. At the lecture he spoke of "research and creativity" -- precepts from his grandfather Sakichi, who died when the younger Toyoda was just five years old -- and said that they would become increasingly important today. In closing he quoted the words he liked so much from his grandfather, "Open your mind, and look at the great world outside," and shared his own hopes for the future, saying "Young people, open your eyes and dream big dreams." You could say this is also a message to his juniors at Meidai. At the age of 92 this year, he says his legs are getting weaker, but he never misses important events like university entrance or graduation ceremonies and homecoming days and gives powerful speeches. He makes people feel there is something awesome about his alma mater......>read more on the Meidai Watch


Atsuko Tsuji: Earned B.A. in Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo in 1976. Joined The Asahi Shimbun Company in 1979 as a journalist and wrote many articles in science and technology area for newspaper and magazines published by the company including editorial pieces. Knight Science Journalism Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989 and Reuters Fellow at University of Oxford in 2014. Designated Professor of Nagoya University's Institute of International Education and Exchange since October 2016.

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