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A Long-forgotten ‘Sister School’ Rekindles Vassar TiesPresident of Tokyo Women’s Christian University Visits Campus

Nearly a century after Vassar students and alumnae raised the money for a new auditorium in a lecture hall at a fledgling university in Tokyo, the two schools rekindled their bonds at a meeting recently on the Vassar campus

A contingent of visitors from Tokyo Women’s Christian University (TWCU), including President Kazu-hiro Mori, shared memories, tea, and hors d'oeuvres in an hour-long reunion of sorts on October 19 in the Gold Parlor. Dean of Studies Benjamin Lotto, Professor of Education Christopher Bjork, and Lisa Tessler, Executive Director of the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC) greeted President Mori, Michele Otani, Secretary General of the college; Sayoko Fujita, President of the New York branch of the TWCU Alumnae Association, and her son, Yoichiro Fujita ’15, of New York City.

Standing, left to right: Professor of Education Christopher Bjork, AAVC Executive Director Lisa Tessler, and Dean of Studies Benjamin Lotto. Seated, left to right: Yoichiro Fujita ’15, Sayoko Fujita, President of the New York branch of the TWCU Alumnae Association; TWCU President Kazu-hiro Mori, and Michele Otani, Secretary General of the university

The Japanese institution’s connection with Vassar was discovered recently while officials there were gathering information for the university’s 100thanniversary celebration. TWCU was founded in April of 1918, and shortly thereafter formed a “sister-school” relationship with Vassar, Mori said.

When TWCU representatives contacted Vassar in mid-October to let officials here know about the long-forgotten relationship (it had dissolved during the run-up to World War II), Lotto did some digging into Vassar’s archives. Among other references to TWCU, Lotto found an article in a 1922 edition of the Miscellany News about TWCU’s celebration of “Vassar Day” on February 24, 1922. The article mentioned four Vassar alumnae who were studying there at the time.

During their October 19 meeting, Mori displayed a map of the college and pointed out the lecture hall where the auditorium funded by Vassar alumnae and students is located. “What a great story,” he said.

Mori provided a letter from the university to Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley, and Lotto presented the visitors with a pair of Vassar pennants and maps and other informational brochures about the college.

Representatives of both schools vowed to keep in touch. Tessler said she would gather information about the approximately two-dozen Vassar alums living in Japan, and Lotto said he would continue to search Vassar’s archives for more information about the relationship between the two schools. “It is always delightful to discover some forgotten piece of Vassar history, especially when, as in this case, it’s about the rediscovery of a ‘sister school’ relationship,” Lotto said. “That bond between Vassar and TWCU resonates strongly with Vassar’s core values of expanding access to education and humane concern for society and the world.”

Professor of Japanese and Chinese Peipei Qiu said she too was pleased to learn about the long-forgotten bond between the two institutions. “From its establishment, Vassar has been a leading institution for women’s education,” Qiu said. “The enthusiastic support and donations Vassar students and alums gave to Tokyo Women’s Christian University nearly a century ago exemplify Vassar’s core value of making liberal education accessible to the world.”