IBS Celebrates Fifty Years as a Graduate School: part two

M. Editor  |  August 12, 2016

The 1980s were a historic time in the development of IBS. We were fortunate to receive strong support from Ryukoku University and the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha. Some of the key area of support came from the following areas.

Rev. Haruyoshi Kusada, IBS Director in the 1980s, conducted a special ten-day seminar to prepare his students for tokudo ordination. This was to be a momentous first for the Buddhist Churches of America, and the affirmation of the value of being trained at the Institute of Buddhist Studies. Up till this point, ministerial aspirants were trained only in Japan. The students were: Dennis Fujimoto, Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple and recently promoted to Rinban, Sacramento Betsuin; Dean Koyama, Seattle Betsuin, Tacoma, Mountain View, and Palo Alto; Jay Hardiman, Fresno Betsuin, Berkeley Sangha, Hawaii Kyodan, retired; Rebecca MacDonald, Marin, Seabrook, Florin, Fresno Betsuin, Visalia-Hanford, retired; and Irene Asao did not serve as a minister, but has served as a Dharma School teacher at the Berkeley Sangha for many years.

In November 1981, the late H.E. Kosho Ohtani, Monshu Emeritus, came to the United States from the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto to personally ordain the first group of students who had received tokudo training in the United States, their home county. The auspicious event took place at the San Francisco Buddhist Temple, also the home temple of the BCA National Headquarters.

May 1982, Ryukoku University President Kenko Futaba and Rev. Seigen Yamaoka, IBS President, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, to establish IBS as a branch of Ryukoku University. IBS would receive financial support and professors would be sent yearly to teach. The IBS Trustees and the BCA National Board endorsed the affiliation.

Throughout the 1980s, the IBS has sought ways and means to attain accreditation. IBS was offered the opportunity to affiliate with the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). The IBS Trustees and the BCA National Board endorsed the possibility. Dr. Jack Fujimoto, then President of the West Los Angeles City College, guided the effort. Contact was made with the GTU, and a committee was established to study the possibility. Committee members for IBS were: Tony Yokomizo, Trustee Chair, Dr. Fujimoto, Rev. LaVerne Sasaki, BCA Ministers Association Chair. From GTU the members were Father Michael Blecker, President,; Dr. Claude Welch, Dean; and Gordon Weber, Chair of the GTU Board of Trustees. In 1983, Dr. Fujimoto, as IBS Chair, guided the negotiations.

In February 1985, the IBS formally became affiliated with the GTU, and in September of the same year, H.E Koshin Ohtani, Monshu, delivered an address at the University of California, Berkeley, to commemorate the IBS/GTU affiliation. In commemoration of the affiliation, the Hongwanji Professorial Chair was established, creating a position currently held by Rev. Seigen Yamaoka. In 1986, the Yehan Numata Professorial Chair (Dr. Richard K. Payne) and the Rev. Yoshitaka Tamai Professorial Chair (Dr. Scott A. Mitchell), were established to support the IBS teaching staff.

In 1986, in order for IBS to receive gifts from Japan through the Japan Foundation, a GTU/IBS Foundation Japan Committee was established. The committee members were: Masakazu Echigo, Chairman; Counselor of C. Itoh Trading Company; Honorable Zentaro Kosaka, member of the Diet and former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Yoshishige Ashihara, Honorary Chairman of the Board of Kansai Electric Power Company; Jusha Tsumura, Chairman of the Board of Tsumura Juntendo Pharmaceutical Company; and Hajime Hayashi, Senior Managing Director of Matsushita Trading.  H.E. Kosho Ohtani, Monshu Emeritus and Hiroji Kariya, BCA Campaign Chair, were instrumental in developing this program.

In 1987, the IBS, GTU, and the University of California co-sponsored the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies, International Association of Buddhist Studies, and the Buddhist-Christian Dialogue Conferences, August 6-15. Some 1,000 scholars attended. Dr. Alfred Bloom, IBS Dean, played an important role in coordinating the conferences.

To be continued….