April 7, 2006
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—Andre Deckrow, a senior at Amherst College, has been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and will travel next year to Japan, China, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Peru to study Japanese gardens as symbols of history and culture. Deckrow is the son of Yukiko Deckrow of Miyazu, Japan and Jeffrey Deckrow of Kent, Wash.

A history and Asian languages and civilizations major, Deckrow wrote in his Watson proposal that he began his formal study of Japanese language in his second year at Amherst, having lived in the U.S. since childhood although born in Japan. In a course on modern Japanese history, Deckrow found “my interest in historical memory stems from my inability to reconcile Japan’s wartime atrocities with the seeming respect shown fallen Japanese soldiers by Japanese society.” After taking up the language, he was hired to spend a summer caretaking Yushien, the Japanese-style garden at Amherst College. Now writing a senior thesis on how the Japanese government used the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games to rehabilitate Japanese national identity, Deckrow is curious about the role culture plays in national identity. The products of contemporary Japan “are sleek and modern, but one of the country’s most important and popular exports comes from the civilization’s pre-modern past: the Japanese garden.”

At Amherst, Deckrow was also a Big Brother, a student advisor to the Friends of the Amherst College Library, a writer and editor at the periodicals The Student and The Indicator and a member of the student government. He plans to attend law school or continue his study of Japanese history at the graduate level.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowships provide 60 exceptional college graduates, from 49 of America’s leading liberal arts colleges, with the freedom to engage in a year of independent study and travel abroad. The program was begun in 1968 by the family of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM, to honor their parents’ interest in education and world affairs. More than 2,200 Watson Fellows have studied all over the world with the support of Watson Fellowships.

Founded in 1821 for “the education of indigent young men of piety and talents,” Amherst College is now widely regarded as the premier liberal arts college in the nation, enrolling a diverse group of approximately 1,600 young men and women. Well known for its academic excellence, Amherst is also consistently ranked among the very best schools in the country in terms of accessibility: The college’s financial aid packages are consistently the most generous in the U.S., and among its peer universities and colleges Amherst has the greatest economic diversity. Diversity, in its broadest sense, is fundamental to Amherst’s mission. The college enrolls students from every state and more than 40 countries, and for the past several years more than 35 percent of Amherst’s students have been students of color. Amherst offers the B.A. degree in 33 fields of study.