By Kristin Schwabauer Rydbeck '04
After graduating from Gordon in 2003, Hiromu Nagahara didn’t go far—in fact, he went as far as Harvard (which is only about 30 miles away, give or take).
After studying history at Gordon, doing his senior thesis on “How nationalism informed the establishment of Western-style music education in late nineteenth century Japan,” he decided he wanted to get his masters and Ph.D. in Japanese history at Harvard. His dissertation was on popular culture and censorship in modern Japan.
He also taught two courses at Gordon during that time—Modern Japan and Advanced Seminar on Media and Culture in Asia. One of Hiromu’s students, history major Doug Barker ’12, loved these classes: “Professor Nagahara's class on Modern Japan was quite honestly the best class I have ever been in. He managed to take a subject I had absolutely no prior knowledge and make it not only interesting, but also a lot of fun. Thanks to him, I'm now considering pursuing further East Asian studies.”
Gordon and Harvard weren’t the only schools to notice Hiromu’s talent. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) didn’t waste any time offering him a tenure-track position in an assistant professorship in Japanese history soon after he was done at Harvard.
Even though Hiromu is now at MIT, he has fond memories of Gordon. His favorite professor was Jennifer Hevelone-Harper, professor of history. “She introduced me to the fascinating world of medieval culture and spirituality—and I consider medieval history to be my ‘first love’ in history, before I skipped time and space to study Japan,” he says. “She also helped me get acquainted with the world of the academy as a profession, both in terms of its rewards and challenges.”
Hiromu also took a few semesters of Hebrew with Marv Wilson, professor of biblical and theological studies. “I considered it a real pleasure to study Hebrew—which turned out to be quite fun in its own right—with a scholar who was involved in translating/editing the NIV.”
As a student, Hiromu made friends that he’s still close to today. “These friendships taught me a lot about life and they’ve gotten me through many experiences—both good and tough—during and after college.” Hiromu and his friends especially loved exploring the Gordon Woods together as students, finding peace and solace there. Hiromu was also part of the College Choir as a student. “Involvement in this deepened my love and knowledge of music in ways that still inform my research today,” he explains.
Hiromu says his semester abroad in Oxford was probably the most influential experience that relates to what he does today. “That's when I started to seriously engage with Japanese history in one of my tutorials. It's also where I became acquainted with various world-class scholars in fields ranging from anthropology to philosophy, and the insights I've gained from these encounters have continued to inspire me to this day.”