As Meiji Gakuin University and Hope College celebrate the 50th anniversary of our partnership, Hideo Yamazaki has a particularly deep appreciation for the relationship — and for both institutions: he holds a degree from each school.

Learn about our 50th anniversary celebration events Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 3 and 4 Hideo first came to Hope in summer 1971 as part of an international exchange program. If you ask him, he’ll tell you about the trip from Japan — the Douglas DC-8 flight to Oakland, California, by way of Anchorage, Alaska; the cross-country Greyhound to Holland, Michigan, with stops in Flagstaff, Arizona (to see the Grand Canyon) and Denver, Colorado — but what really stands out all these years later is his time on campus.

“The moment I arrived at Hope, I was fascinated — not only by the campus but by the community, the environment and the surroundings,” he said. “People were nice and kind, and the whole community seemed to support the program.”

After his summer at Hope, Hideo returned to Japan to finish his degree at Meiji Gakuin.

Return to Hope

When he wanted to return to the United States for a second degree, he knew exactly where to go.

“I tried to get in touch with Larry Penrose” — Larry had directed Hideo’s summer exchange program — “to see if there was a possibility of me coming to Hope,” Hideo said. “But he was in Moscow. I sent him a letter, and I didn’t get a reply until a year later.”

The college gave Hideo a belated invite, and he accepted. Coming to Hope “was a good experience,” he said. “It was probably one of the best times of my life.”

Hideo said it was his degrees from institutions in the United States — a B.A. in management from Hope College and an MBA from Central Michigan — and some prior work in the film industry that opened the door to what would become a long and distinguished global career with such companies as Polaroid, Kodak, Hasselblad and, most recently, Carl Zeiss Company.

But it was more than just having a degree from the United States. There’s something special about Hope.

“You could learn a language or acquire the knowledge somewhere else, but Hope is really an ideal institution where students can establish a close relationship with the instructors and professors,” Hideo said. “My education at Hope prepared me for my career to a great degree. Not only the knowledge I acquired through courses, but the real experience of being in America and interacting with the people here. At Hope, you learn more than what instructors teach in the course.”

Still Connected

When his daughter, Marie, graduated from a university in Tokyo and wanted to study in the US instead of going straight into the workforce, Hideo knew just the spot. “I suggested that she get a good education at Hope College. I brought her to a campus visit day, and she liked it very much.” She enrolled and graduated with her degree two years later, in 2011.

“There are very very few colleges in the U.S. where parents feel comfortable to send their kids,” Hideo said — but Hope is one of them. “I didn’t feel like sending my daughter to colleges in large cities like Los Angeles or New York City. And I knew that she could excel with the education at Hope and with the communication with professors and get good assistance and advice; once you’re at a state university, you have to do your own things and find your own way. If that was my first year in the states, I would’ve been lost.”

Hideo is still connected to Hope, where he currently serves on the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“Even though it’s my first time to meet with the other members,” he said — Homecoming Weekend was the first board meeting since he was appointed in August — “I don’t feel like I’m in a strange place. We have a common background. Everybody had a chance to study on this campus, which means something to us.”

It means something to Hope College, too.