Japanese Government Establishes Endowed Mansfield Chair at UM

Montana dignitaries present an award to Makoto Iyori, the consul general of Japan in Seattle.
Montana dignitaries present an award to Makoto Iyori, the consul general of Japan in Seattle (second from left), to celebrate the establishment of the Mansfield Chair in Japanese and Indo-Pacific Affairs. Also pictured are (left to right) UM President Seth Bodnar, Mansfield Center Executive Director Deena Mansour and Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte. (UM photo by Ryan Brennecke)

MISSOULA – A $5.1 million grant from the Japanese government will establish the Mansfield Chair in Japanese and Indo-Pacific Affairs at the University of Montana.

Endowed chair positions prestigious roles that are among the highest honors a faculty member can achieve attract talented professors who elevate an institution’s scholarly impact and profile. The Mansfield Chair will foster opportunities for multidisciplinary education in Japanese and Indo-Pacific studies, including trade, rural affairs, public health, language, society and culture.

Visiting UM on May 2 in celebration of the grant, Consul General of Japan in Seattle Makoto Iyori attended a celebratory lunch hosted by UM President Seth Bodnar and Mansfield Center Executive Director Deena Mansour.

Makoto Iyori speaks in a UM Japanese class.
Iyori speaks in a UM Japanese class.

Also in attendance were state and local dignitaries, including Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, Montana Department of Commerce Director Paul Green, Missoula Mayor Andrea Davis, UM Foundation President and CEO Cindy Williams, and Mansfield Center Advisory Board members.

“Because of your generosity, we will be able to better support our shared interests in promoting deeper understanding of Japanese politics, foreign policy, Japan-U.S. Relations and research and exchanges on the promotion of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Bodnar said.

“The Mansfield Center is deeply grateful to the government of Japan for its support,” Mansour said. “The endowed Mansfield Chair establishes the University of Montana as a national leader in Japanese affairs and is a testament to the unwavering fidelity and critical importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance, and the pivotal role that the Mansfield Center plays in this relationship.”

The Japanese government awarded the grant in recognition of Mike Mansfield, our nation’s longest-serving ambassador to Japan (1977-88). In April, the White House released a joint statement during Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the U.S. The document acknowledged the two countries’ recognition of Ambassador Mansfield’s legacy and the contributions of the Mansfield Center and stated they welcome the creation of the Mansfield Chair at UM.

The Mansfield Center has sustained his legacy by facilitating educational exchange between youth in Montana and Japan and supporting faculty in interdisciplinary teaching and collaborative research for more than 40 years.

During his tenure as ambassador, Mansfield drew on his robust background in Asian affairs to address the challenging bilateral trade and defense issues. He famously stated that the U.S.-Japan Alliance is “the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none.”

 “This grant reflects Mansfield’s lasting legacy of addressing the complex issues facing the world today through deep cultural understanding and rigorous scholarship,” said UM Associate Professor of Japanese Brian Dowdle. “I am excited by the range of new courses made possible by this gift, which will not only complement our students’ cultural and linguistic training but also ultimately better prepare them for work in the public and private sector.”

Reflective of Mansfield’s lasting impact, UM’s Department of World Languages and Cultures offers the most Japanese courses in the state, and the Japanese language and literature program is the second largest language-based program at UM.

Each year, numerous UM students study in Japan at one of eight partner universities. In turn, visiting and degree-seeking Japanese students enrich UM’s campus community and foster lifelong friendships with their American counterparts.

To learn more about the Mansfield Center, visit www.mansfieldcenter.org.


Contact: Sarah Ward, communications manager, UM Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, 406-243-6932, sarah.ward@mso.umt.edu.