2021 Spring Matriculation Ceremony

Update: April 1, 2021

On April 1 (Thu.), with cherry blossoms in full bloom, ICU welcomed a total of about 650 new undergraduate, graduate students from within and outside Japan and exchange students from universities which have exchange student agreements with ICU at the Matriculation ceremony held in the University Chapel.

To prevent corona infection, the ceremony was divided into two sessions, morning and afternoon and only graduates attended the ceremony.

As per the tradition that has been followed for over 60 years since the founding of the University in 1953, the students' names were announced individually and all new students signed the written pledge to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their student lives.

And president Shoichiro Iwakiri gave words of encouragement to the newly gathered new students during the corona pandemic.


2021 Spring Matriculation Address by Shoichiro Iwakiri, President


A warm welcome to all of you who are entering our College of Liberal Arts and our MA and PhD programs. At the same time, I extend my warmest regards to all your family members and friends.

As you know, since last autumn, we have conducted a series of different exams and interviews. And in an attempt to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experimented with different ways of selecting students. Knowing that you have had to contend with unusual entrance procedures onto our programs, I am delighted to be able to welcome each of you today, during this beautiful cherry blossom season, as you begin your undergraduate and graduate programs.

In consideration of the COVID-19 outbreak, many of our courses this spring term will be delivered either in a mixed mode (combining online and face to face instruction) or completely online. There will be some of you who may wish to avoid coming to the campus to minimize the risk of infection; but it is my hope that you will be able to find as many opportunities as possible to come to our campus replete with natural beauty and to interact personally with your professors and fellow students. We, the faculty and staff of ICU, will do all in our power to provide opportunities for such formative interactions.

ICU was established in 1953, with a founding mission of nurturing talented individuals who will serve God and humankind and contribute to world peace. Since then, with its focus on its 'international', 'Christian' and 'academic' mission, it has served as a pioneer of liberal arts education in Japan. In all daily activities, including those that take place in the classroom, we value critical thinking, dialogue and diversity. Since ancient times, on the one hand the world has focused on the search for peace and interconnectedness; at the same time, however, it has been riven by tensions and divisions that have led to conflict. In just such an uncertain world, ICU has held to one particular aspiration within this contemporary reality.

This can be defined as our determination to seek solutions to the issues that our contemporary society confronts on the basis of the philosophy of 'the common good'. By common good, we are referring to everything that is for the good of all, where all can exist in a relationship of liberty and equality. Our goal is to continue to search for this and to bring it to fruition. It is our hope that the University and wider society can be more meaningfully connected through such awareness and determination.

We are constantly moving forward. We learn, study and live our daily lives here at ICU with hope in our hearts. There are so many activities here on campus with which our faculty and students are collectively engaged. It is my wish that, through your classes and various other non-curricular activities, each and every one of you may grow in wisdom, nurture friendships, interact with a range of people from around the world and grow as individuals who can thrive in society at large.

All of our undergraduate students will enter our College of Arts and Sciences and graduate students will enter the School of Arts and Sciences. The word 'art' refers, not simply to painting and other such artistic endeavors, but also to techniques and technology - to the practical application of knowledge. And the word 'science' refers, not only to those areas embraced by the term 'natural sciences', but also, as implied by its roots in the Latin term 'scio' (to know), to knowledge and learning. The 16th century French Renaissance author, Rabelais, writes in one of his stories that 'Science without conscience is but a ruin of the soul'. Here the word 'science' refers to learning, with Rabelais implying that 'learning without conscience is but a ruin of the soul'.

The concept of the Arts and Sciences at ICU refers to knowing, to learning, plus the techniques required to apply this to the real world. To that end, there is no distinction between the so-called arts and the sciences. The fact that you have all chosen ICU as your university - to study within the context of a liberal arts environment - means that you have chosen the path of learning whereby specialist knowledge is enveloped within the framework of a more comprehensive knowledge foundation and in which the particular is brought into association with the whole. This has to be learning with a conscience. This kind of knowledge and experience - and the lifestyle that this invokes - has never been more important than in 21st century society.

This year we are starting work on construction of a new facility designed to facilitate teaching and research that combine both the arts and sciences. This building encapsulates the nature of teaching and research at ICU. In a world where even intelligence is becoming artificial, there is a need for us to be trained in the data sciences in order to operate effectively in a digital society; at the same time, however, it will be important for us to respond to the questions of what it means to be human, and of how to strike a harmony between technology and nature.

We occasionally hear doubts expressed as to the value of humanities or social science programs at the university level. The simple answer is that, since we are humans in possession of free will and sensibilities, then without art and ideology, we risk losing the will to live. The liberal arts represent a way of learning that embraces the study of things that contribute to our inner values, making them the foundation that supports us in our search for scientific truths in society and the natural world. It is my wish that you will experience this way of learning and absorb it to the full.

Rabelais, whom I mentioned earlier, lived in France in the first half of the 16th century. Following his death, society was ravaged by a series of religious wars. In the midst of this, Michel de Montaigne wrote his Essays. Here Montaigne expounded his thoughts on a variety of topics, including a lengthy treatise on the nature of 'knowledge'. As noted earlier, the term 'science', or learning, is derived from the Latin. In the Scripture reading we have just heard, we were reminded of the distinction between 'that which can be seen and that which cannot'; what those words give expression to is the fact that what we believe to be true are those truths that we see in the light of human reason - that there are those things that can be understood by human reasoning and those that cannot.

Inherent in the fact that ICU is dedicated both to the pursuit of academic learning and to God is an important tension - one might describe it as a contradiction - with regard to humanity and the extent of its knowledge. When it comes to understanding a certain dialectic, there is that which can be understood at the human level and that which cannot. But, on occasions as humans we occasionally succumb to a certain arrogance and come to believe that we have understood everything at the human level. This holds true, not just for academic learning, but also in the sphere of religious thought. Montaigne wrote of 'restoring God to their level'. At the same time, he carved the inscription 'What do I know?' onto a set of scales in his possession. We see here an example of critical thinking unusual for his time.

Left like that, this might leave the impression of Montaigne as an awkward and inflexible person. But if you read his Essays, it is clear that he was a humorous and naturally open-minded man. To him, the fragile state of an empire and that of the leaves on a tree ('remuer un empire ou la feuille d'un arbre') carried equal significance.

Through your interactions with those around you, with nature and with God, your liberal arts education will help you in solidifying the core foundation of your personal philosophy, in discovering approaches for deepening your understanding of whatever you are called to focus on, in flexibly expanding your perspective and in transcending your own horizons.

I pray that your time at ICU will be richly blessed, full of varied experiences and encounters, and that you will discover profound meaning in even the smallest of incidents.

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