Thomas “Tim” Winant has a long relationship with both ICU and JICUF. In the early 60s, when he was an undergraduate student at New York University, he studied abroad at ICU as an “OYR” (“One Year Regular” or exchange student), and again in the mid-60s as a special student taking an intensive course in Japanese. In the 1980s, he was on the Board of JICUF, and returned to ICU in 1990 to serve as the Assistant to the President and the Dean of International Affairs until 1999.
In between his stints at ICU, Tim pursued graduate studies at Keio University, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, and served in a host of academic and administrative posts at Illinois State University, UPenn, Tufts, Harvard, and Manhattanville College. Now retired, he lives in St. Lucie County, Florida, and enjoys genealogical research and reading.
Based on his unusual ties with ICU and JICUF, we asked him to reflect on the time he spent at both institutions in a series of articles. Please enjoy the first article about his encounter with ICU and Ruth Miller, the then Executive Director of JICUF.
Introduction to ICU – Advice from Ruth Miller
In the summer of 1962, I was working nights and taking classes at my university in New York City. Returning home one day I received a registered letter asking me if I would be interested in spending a year on exchange in Japan, all expenses paid. Frankly, my focus at this time was towards Europe, especially Russia, and the thought of going to Japan had never crossed my mind. On the other hand, it was a free year, and Japan seemed like a very interesting place, so I immediately responded to the invitation in the affirmative.
Fortunately, I was chosen to be the student designated, thus I became the Douglas MacArthur New York-Tokyo Sister City Affiliation Exchange Student for 1962-1963.
Immediately, there was a problem. I knew nothing about Japan. Had never even read a book about the country. I also had to fill out an application for the university in Japan, International Christian University, and be admitted before I could even apply for a visa. Fortunately, the Japan ICU Foundation had an office in the Interchurch Center, so I decided to visit and find whatever information I could.
On visiting the JICUF I met Ruth Miller, the Executive Director. Ms Miller admitted that her experience in Japan and at ICU was limited to roughly the three weeks she had spent there a few years earlier. She did, however, offer significant insight into ICU, and Japan. Indeed, I realized after arriving in Japan and spending a year at ICU that her observations, conclusions and advice were far more useful than any book or conversation I had about ICU and Japan before, or even during, my year there. There are some rare individuals, and Ruth Miller was one, who could observe and learn more from a few weeks than some people can after many years. JICUF and ICU benefited from her being a part of the great experiment that is today one of the major universities in Japan, and indeed the world.
Listen, pay attention, pass no judgments, arrive at no hasty conclusions, ask questions, respect people, givethe benefit of the doubt, maintain an open mind, observe, participate, contribute, be open, understand differences, be true to yourself, admire openly, disagree carefully, assume nothing, embrace change, be honest, be modest, make friends. These are but a few things that I learned from Ruth Miller. She believed in ICU and the mission of JICUF. Her faith and sound judgment made so much possible for me, and allowed me to commit to the goals and ideal of the university for so many years after that first meeting.
This is Part 1 of a four-part series. To read Part 2, click here.