Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa
As a first responder in Hiroshima following the atomic bombing in 1945, Yasuo Sakakibara seems a person unlikely to want to study at Amherst College less than a decade later, let alone to become a founder of the American studies discipline in postwar Japan. Yet Sakakibara established a 60-year connection with the college. He enrolled as a special student in 1954 and studied English, economics and American history and literature. Professor Jim Nelson, a leading authority in the economics of transportation, instilled in Sakakibara a lifelong interest in the public financing of transport. After continued study at Harvard and teaching at two Midwestern colleges, Sakakibara returned to his native Kyoto and was appointed to the economics department of Doshisha University, where he later served as Dean of the Faculty of Economics. Over the next 30 years, he became a world-renowned authority of the economics of transportation, even leading the planning associated with the establishment of the Kansai International Airport. By bringing direct international flights to the greater Osaka area for the first time, the airport changed the region’s economic relationship with the rest the global community.
Professor Sakakibara’s influence on the field of American studies in Japan, until his death in July 2013, was just as significant. His interest was initially piqued when he read translated writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Charles A. Beard and Paul Samuelson. He was a prolific writer and translator on a wide variety of topics related to the United States and was central in the creation of an interdisciplinary graduate program in American studies at Doshisha, where he also acted as the program’s first dean. In recognition of this work, the American Studies Association established the Yasuo Sakakibara Prize in 2001 and awards it annually to the best paper on American history, culture or society presented at the Association’s annual meeting.
For his inspired teaching and substantial public service, Amherst College honors Professor Sakakibara with a posthumous honorary degree, which his daughter, Richi Sakakibara ’88, will accept on his behalf.