From as early as 1875, the College had developed ties with Japan and China through the mission work of the Evangelical Church. The exposure to the Church encouraged students in Japan and China to attend North Central College for their education. Henry Tayama, Class of 1893, became the first student from Japan to graduate. Fumiko Miyagi ’24 returned to Tokyo to become a renowned artist and humanitarian and a professor of art at Japan Women’s University.
In 1925, enrollment included eight Chinese students. Shein-Woo Kung ’26, a 72nd generation descendent of Confucius, eventually became chairman of the board of the Chinese American Bank and Bank of Canton. His sons Edward ’53 and Robert ’65 followed in his footsteps to North Central.
After World War II, a small number of Japanese students came to North Central from Hirosaki Gakuin College (now a University) which was affiliated with the Methodist Church. By the 1950s, graduates included students from Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. Mrs. Shige Masaki ’54 Nagamura came to North Central as a result of contact with Christians in Japan and went on to an impressive career in Japan holding high-level positions in trade, education and justice. She later established an endowed scholarship to support outstanding students from Japan. Senator George K. Liu ’60 arrived from Taiwan to study political science and economics and became a diplomat and member of the Congress of Taiwan.
Study abroad pioneer Charlotte Roederer ’65 boarded the Queen Elizabeth for a year in Vienna, Austria, following a persistent quest with the College’s registrar to get her foreign study approved.
The College opened its windows wider to the international world during the ’70s and early ’80s. Pierre Lebeau, professor of history emeritus, served as foreign studies coordinator from 1969 to 1985 and placed students in study abroad programs sponsored by other U.S. institutions in countries like England, France and Germany. International students on campus numbered no more than a half dozen each year from Japan, the Middle East, Africa and India. In 1985, North Central sent seven students to visit Nicaragua to experience the global issues of peace and justice, a forerunner of later programs in Latin America.
Lebeau also helped to foster faculty and student exchange programs with Hirosaki Gakuin and with Nagoya Gakuin University, both in Japan. North Central started its Japanese language program in 1985 and then added a Japanese major in 1992, an East Asian Studies major in 2000 and, later, a Chinese minor in 2006—all extensive offerings for a college its size. Along the way, a major grant from the Freeman Foundation bolstered library resources and helped fund study trips.
Jack Shindler, professor of English, began spearheading the College’s international efforts in 1993 and his vision for a global campus shaped many of these programs. “It was creating an office out of nothing—there was never such a thing before,” says Shindler. “It’s been an interesting challenge.”