Thursday, January 20, 2011

Beginnings of Hokkaido University

A bit of history of Hokkaido University (Hokudai for short), and the role of Massachusetts men

Hokkaido University (北海道大学, Hokkaidō daigaku), or Hokudai (北大), is a national university of Japan and a member of the National Seven Universities. It is ranked as one of the top 200 universities in the world. Hokudai had its beginning as an agricultural college founded near the beginning of the Meiji era.

Photo from the archive of William Wheeler

The short story: Sapporo Agricultural College (1876-1907). In July 1876, Dr. William S. Clark (see more bio below), then the President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in the U.S. was invited to be the Vice President of the College. In August 1876, Sapporo Agricultural College was inaugurated by William S. Clark with the help of five faculty members and a first class of 24 students. In April 1877, Dr. Clark left Sapporo, and his former student and protégé Dr. William Wheeler (see more bio below) took the helm, remaining as president through 1879.

William S. Clark [left}, the Clock Tower, today (center), which was built in 1878 as a drill house for the college, and William Wheeler (right)

From 1876-77, Clark traveled to Japan at the request of the Japanese to establish an agricultural college at Sapporo. He is still remembered in Japan for his famous parting words: “Boys, be ambitious!" He is, indeed, almost a mythical figure.

Tohoku Imperial University (1907-1918) In June 1907, Sapporo Agricultural College became a part of the Agricultural College of the newly established Tohoku Imperial University in Sendai. Hokkaido Imperial University (1918-1947) In April 1918, Hokkaido Imperial University was established. The Agricultural College of Tohoku Imperial University was transferred to it. Hokkaido University (1947-2004). In October 1947, Hokkaido Imperial University was renamed Hokkaido University, re-chartered in 1949, and becoming in April 2004 National University Corporation Hokkaido University.

I am not sure what the newer designations mean, but I do know that since I have been here, there have been several votes taken by faculty about certain matters, and these votes are real elections, with ballots and monitors, etc.

More to come on Massachusetts men, Amherst, UMass, and the founding of Hokkaido University.

I’ll come back to this, here are a few photos, meanwhile. You can find decent articles in Wikipedia on William S. Clark and William Wheeler.

These are a couple of my pictures from this winter of the historical experimental farm -- yes, this is Hokkaido University, not western Massachusetts...

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