Japan’s Keio University Celebrates 150th Anniversary, Honors Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian

On November 6th to 8th, Keio University in Tokyo celebrated its 150th anniversary as the first private university in Japan and the first modern university in both Japan and Asia. In a rare tribute, the occasion was marked by an address by Emperor Akihito, who was accompanied by Empress Michiko. Other festivities included the presentation of a classic Japanese Noh play, a concert, the issuing of a commemorative stamp, and a symposium on the future of Asia. Over 12,000 alumni, faculty, students and others attended the anniversary events.

The ceremonies at Keio were particularly notable for breaking precedent. Keio University only awards one honorary degree each year, but in recognition of reaching its landmark 150th anniversary, the university awarded two degrees. The honorary degrees were bestowed upon its two international advisors, Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, who serves on a pro bono basis, and Peter Mathias, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Former Master, Downing College, Cambridge, which has educated many members of the imperial family of Japan.

Gregorian, who served as President of Brown University from 1988 to1997, was honored not only for his work with Keio but also for his contributions to higher education and his leadership in the realm of philanthropy. He accepted his honorary doctor of humane letters on behalf of Brown, which has long-standing ties with Keio. Revered as one of Japan’s first statesmen, Yukichi Fukuzawa, who founded Keio University in 1858, was inspired, among others, by Francis Wayland, the fourth president of Brown University and one of the early 19th century reformers of American higher education. Wayland introduced science and technology into the curriculum, allowed for student choice in the subjects studied, and established courses in English literature and modern languages. Similarly, Fukuzawa’s efforts to transform Japanese thinking about science and civilization helped to give shape to Japan’s transition toward modernity—and away from a feudal era marked by privilege and plutocracy. At Keio University, every May 15th is celebrated as Francis Wayland Day, to honor the American educator.

Yuichiro Anzai, Keio’s President, presented the degrees to Gregorian and Mathias at a ceremony held in Enzetsu-kan, or Hall of Public Speaking, modeled after a New England Meeting House and the country’s first building dedicated solely to public speaking and debate, now preserved as a monument on the university campus.


Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." For more than 95 years the Corporation has carried out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy by building on his two major concerns: international peace and advancing education and knowledge. As a private grantmaking foundation, the Corporation will invest in nonprofit organizations to fulfill Mr. Carnegie's mission, "to do real and permanent good in this world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $3 billion on September 30, 2007.