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Seating Area Dedication Honors Taylor Anderson ’08 (VIDEO)

Sep 13, 2016

bench dedication


On September 12, 2016, the Randolph-Macon College community held a ceremony to dedicate a special seating area in honor of Taylor Anderson '08. Anderson, a beloved member of the Randolph-Macon family, died in the March 11, 2011 tsunami that resulted from the Great East Japan earthquake.

Attending the dedication on campus were R-MC faculty, staff and students; Anderson's parents, Andy and Jean; members from her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta; and special guests from Ishinomaki Senshu University (ISU). The dedication ceremony was featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Cultural Connections
Located outside of R-MC's McGraw-Page Library, the seating area includes three memorial benches flanked by dogwood and cherry trees, symbolizing the cultural connection between the U.S. and Japan. Inside the library, a plaque in the northwest corner of the main library dedicates the seating area and nearby books to Anderson's memory. As a student, Anderson was a founding member of a student organization called Randolph Readers, which encouraged her peers to read for pleasure.

R-MC President Robert R. Lindgren welcomed guests to the ceremony.

"Taylor was a magnificent person," said Lindgren. "Upon meeting her, right away you became aware of what many have called her 'inner light'—that spark of inspiration that motivated her. As a student, she was deeply involved in college life. Taylor was intensely committed to exploring her passions. How meaningful—and indeed how inspirational—that in that way, Taylor's life was not so different from many other Randolph-Macon students. Remarkably, in her short life, she began living out her dreams of traveling and teaching young students English while living in Japan. This Memorial Bench area that we are dedicating today in Taylor's honor says to all of us, and most of all, to our students: Dream big, because what you dream, you can achieve. This bench area stands as a fitting tribute to Taylor's life—a testament that one life lived, to the fullest, can make an enormously positive difference in the lives of many."

Dean of Academic Affairs and Political Science Professor Lauren Bell also shared her sentiments with guests.

"Taylor saw the culture and beauty of Japan and wanted to learn all she could about it," said Bell.  "Randolph-Macon College received two grants in her honor in the years since her death. These grants from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and from the TOMODACHI Initiative and Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund emphasize the importance of cultural exchange between the U.S. and Japan. This is fitting, as Taylor saw herself as a bridge between the U.S. and Japan, and sought to deepen the relationships between the people of both countries."

Andy Anderson said his daughter's love for Japan blossomed when she was a student at R-MC.

"Taylor's first trip to Japan was for the J-term History of Tokyo course in 2006," he said. "She then studied the works of the Japanese author Haruki Murakami as a SURF fellow that summer. Those were some of the opportunities that helped her see that she wanted to live, work in and explore Japan when she graduated in 2008. That sense of how she wanted to start life after college was well supported academically, intellectually and socially at R-MC. Randolph-Macon's dedication to Japanese exchange and academic programs, especially in Ishinomaki where Taylor taught, continue to help Taylor's second home recover while teaching us all valuable lessons about the resiliency of the human spirit. This seating area is a wonderful setting to latch onto some of that spirit that Taylor left with us. We thank R-MC for knowing Taylor so well, and for carrying her spirit forward, as we try to do every day."

Research and Collaboration
On September 10, 2016, seven members of the ISU community—five students, one faculty member and one staff member—arrived on campus for a visit that included research and collaboration. Their visit followed a summer trip to Japan that four R-MC students and their faculty advisors took to conduct research.

Generous Funding
Both trips were made possible by the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund (TAMF) through a grant from the U.S. Japan Council's TOMODACHI Initiative, which invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The TAMF research exchange program between R-MC and ISU honors Anderson, who was teaching English in Ishinomaki, Miyagi with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program when she died.

Cultural Exploration
In the week leading up to the dedication, R-MC staff and faculty planned numerous activities for the ISU group, including trips to the U.S.-Japan Council and the Smithsonian Museum; a private tour of the U.S. Capitol; and a tour of the Deco Japan Exhibit at the Hillwood Museum and Garden in Washington, D.C. They also met with members of FEMA for a discussion about the 3/11 disaster and recovery, and they attended a luncheon on campus. The visit also included a special dinner at the home of President and Mrs. Lindgren.

Global Exchange
In 2016, the TOMODACHI program selected four R-MC students to explore research questions of mutual concern. Laura Peyton Ellis '17, Rebecca Reidy '17, Phillip Terrono '17 and Eric Montag '17 traveled to Japan and examined different aspects of the effects of the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. Ellis focused on health concerns; Reidy examined mental health issues; Terrono did a policy analysis; and Montag compared perspectives regarding nuclear energy—all participants in the college's Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program—traveled to Japan with their faculty advisors to examine the 3/11 disaster, each from a different perspective. Professors Lauren Bell (political science), Susan Parker (psychology), Rachele Dominquez (physics) and James Foster (biology) mentored the students and traveled with them. This was the second time that the TOMADACHI Initiative funded R-MC students' travel to Japan.

Taylor Anderson '08
Anderson, who had a lifelong love of Japan, graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 2008. Anderson, who majored in international studies and minored in Asian studies and political science, then joined the JET program, which aims at developing strong international relationships between Japan and other nations. In conjunction with JET, Anderson taught English in Ishinomaki, Miyagi.

Following Anderson's death, her R-MC sorority sisters donated books to the Ishinomaki bunkos (school libraries), and on behalf of the U.S government and in Anderson's memory, Ambassador Caroline Bouvier Kennedy also donated books. A film made in Anderson's honor, "Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story," has been shown at numerous schools and museums.

In 2011, Randolph-Macon College received a generous grant from The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnerships, "Honoring the Life, Work, and Good Spirit of Taylor Anderson – Enhancing Japanese Studies at Randolph-Macon College." Funds from the grant have helped the college reach its goal of increasing course offerings in Japanese language and culture, and have allowed dozens of students to travel to Japan as part of their studies.