A ceremony at Hope College on Saturday, April 27, will celebrate the college’s first two international graduates, who arrived from Japan in 1871, and their lasting, 153-year impact on both Hope and their homeland.

The event will take place at 12:30 p.m. on the grounds near the front/main entrance of Van Vleck Hall in the central campus.  It will feature the unveiling of a bas relief commissioned by Hope in honor of 1879 graduate Motoichiro Ohgimi that will be placed next to a similar piece that was donated to the college by Komoro City of Japan and installed in 2021 in honor of his classmate Kumaji Kimura.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

“It’s important for us to continue to recognize the legacy that these two individuals have given us at Hope,” said Amy Quincey, senior director of the Fried Center for Global Engagement.

“In terms of being the first international graduates of Hope, they represent what we from early on have said we want Hope to be about as an international campus,” she said.  “It’s also important to recognize the college’s impact on these individuals — and through them on the history of Christian education in Japan.”

The bas relief was sculpted by artist Eva-Maria Wohn of Portland, Maine, and cast by Lloyd Mandelbaum, owner and founder of the art casting foundry Chicago Crucible in Hamilton, Michigan.  It features a portrait of Ohgimi as well as an excerpt from a letter that he wrote in 1906 to Frances Phelps Otte, whose father Philip Phelps was the college’s president while they were at Hope: “I am truly grateful that God brought me to Holland, and placed me under the influences of such Godly people, that I might have missed had I gone somewhere else.”

The unveiling ceremony will be preceded by taiko drumming at the site performed by Michigan Hiryu Daiko.  The event will feature remarks by Matthew A. Scogin, president of Hope College, and Toshihiro Koizumi, mayor of Komoro City, as well as a welcome/introduction by Quincey.  A reception will follow at the college’s Martha Miller Center for Global Communication.

Hope is also developing a website that will highlight Kimura’s and Ohgimi’s time at Hope and careers.

The ceremony’s campus location would be very familiar to both men.  Completed in 1858 for the Holland Academy, the high school from which Hope grew, Van Vleck Hall is the college’s oldest building, and its multiple roles in the 1870s included housing not only students but also the president and his family, and the library.  The college enrolled its first freshman class in the fall of 1862 and received its charter from the State of Michigan in May 1866.

Kimura and Ohgimi were brought to Hope by Philip Phelps, who was Hope’s first president and met the two men in New York while he was on a fundraising tour of the East Coast.  As members of samurai families, they had been on the losing side at the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, and had come to the U.S. in search of better lives — but were without funds, plans or even fluency in English.

They initially enrolled in the Holland Academy, which another student from Japan was already attending.  All three of the students converted to Christianity, and were baptized at Hope Church in Holland in 1872.  The other Japanese student — Ryozo Tsugawa — returned to Japan after completing his studies at the high school, but Kimura and Ohgimi enrolled at the college.  After graduating from Hope, they attended New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey, and upon graduating from the seminary in 1882 became ordained Reformed Church ministers and returned to Japan.

Kimura (1845-1927) was a pastor at various churches and then cofounded the Meiji Women’s Academy in Tokyo with his wife, Toko Kimura, and also served on the faculty at the school.  He also founded a private school — Komoro Gijuku — in Komoro City, the building for which was modeled after Van Vleck Hall; and subsequently returned to the pastorate, serving in Nagano for several years.

Ohgimi (1845-1941) was involved in the founding of, and taught at, Meiji Gakuin University, which was created through the merger of three schools; was principal of Steele Memorial Academy; served as a pastor; and established an educational facility for the blind.  He also helped translate the New Testament into Japanese, and wrote a New Testament Greek-Japanese dictionary.

Kimura and Ohgimi are also commemorated on campus with portraits by artist Paul Collins commissioned by Hope and installed in the second floor of the rotunda of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication in 2013.  In addition, Hope established the annual Motoichiro Ohgimi Global Courage Award, first presented in 2013, to honor a professor or academic-staff member who exemplifies commitment to global engagement that impacts students; and the annual Kumaji Kimura Leadership Award, first presented in 2023, to recognize an international student who has demonstrated the courage and conviction to live into the mission of the college by serving and leading in a global society.

To inquire about accessibility or if you need accommodations to fully participate in the event, please email accommodations@hope.edu.  Updates related to events are posted when available at hope.edu/calendar in the individual listings.

Van Vleck Hall is located in the central Hope campus, south of 10th Street (but with an address of 116 E. 10th St.) between College and Columbia avenues.  The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication is located at 257 Columbia Ave., at the corner of Columbia Avenue and 10th Street.