I, along with Dina Wolkoff ’88 and Mike Schoenfeld ’73, am traveling in Asia. We are visiting alumni, parents, and friends of the College. The College’s global reach is expanding, and the role of regional networks of alumni and parents is becoming more important to our future as a truly global liberal arts college. During the trip, we will make occasional postings from Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore. This first posting is by guest blogger Mike Schoenfeld.
When President Liebowitz visits four cities in Asia this week, he will meet a network of alumni and parents that is unlike any experienced by a Middlebury president before him. He will meet with more than 250 people in Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore who have either attended or sent their children to the undergraduate college, the Language Schools, the Schools Abroad, or the Monterey Institute of International Studies. While the groundwork for this particular visit was laid by recent visits by College staff members, the network has been developing for decades. The president will have the opportunity to experience the energy and enthusiasm of this network firsthand at 25 individual meetings and events over a six-day period.
The first students to attend Middlebury from the Asia were introduced to the College in the late ’50s by C.V. Starr, the founder of American International Group and the source of years of transformational financial support to the College through the Starr Foundation. The Schools Abroad appropriately bear his name. Starr convinced several of his Chinese colleagues in Hong Kong that Middlebury would be a suitable place for their sons to get a liberal arts education. Tom Kan ’64 was one of the earliest to take Starr’s advice and his daughter, Andrea ’96, later followed him to Middlebury—the first legacy student from Asia. Ron will meet with Tom and Andrea, along with several families from all four cities who have current students at Middlebury or students who have recently graduated.
In Tokyo, Ron will meet with one of the earliest Japanese students to attend Middlebury, Koichi Ishiyama ’69. Ishiyama’s story is extraordinary. He received a scholarship to attend Middlebury and traveled to the States by boat before making his way across the country to spend four years at the College. He subsequently returned to Japan to teach English and journalism and compile the most popular Japanese-English dictionary in the country. Ishiyama, who served on the Alumni Association Board, has been an active volunteer for the College since graduating.
Most of the attendees at the gatherings in the four cities will be an interesting mix of alumni who are expatriates living and working in Asia and more recent alums who have returned to their native countries. Some of the American expats were the first generation of international studies majors and Language School attendees from the late ’70s and early ’80s, when courses were available from professors like Nick Clifford in Asian history and John Berninghausen in Chinese. Some of these early pioneers have been living and working in Asia ever since. Middlebury had very few international alumni until the ’90s, when the fall of the Iron Curtain and expanded admissions and financial aid programs helped to increase the international student population to 10 percent of the study body. In 1980, the figure was less than 1 percent.
The newest addition to the mix at the upcoming events will be the alums of the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). The MIIS alumni body is far more international than the undergraduate alumni body at Middlebury, and the majority of MIIS’s international alumni are from Asia. With Midd and MIIS alumni increasingly interconnecting in the workplace in Asia, the potential of this expanded alumni network is obvious.
Finally, the trip will also celebrate the Schools Abroad, with the directors of the Schools in China and Japan attending the events in Beijing and Tokyo with their students who are studying abroad this semester. Professor Senae Eda will introduce her students and the president at the Tokyo event, with the students serving as interpreters.
The purpose of the president’s trip is to show the College’s support of the alumni and parent network in Asia and to ask for their help in return. There are opportunities to be explored for involvement in admissions recruiting and career networking and support needed for internships and financial aid. There is no doubt that Middlebury’s global reach is expanding, and the role of regional networks of alumni and parents is becoming more important to our future as a truly global liberal arts college.
—Mike Schoenfeld ’73, senior vice president and chief philanthropic adviser