Class of 1974
Years at YIS: 1969 -1974
Please describe a memorable moment from your time at YIS.
I had just graduated from the grade 6 of a Japanese public school and it was my first day at YIS in the grade 7. Miss Mance (Valerie Kerr) was teaching a literature class on "The Island of the Blue Dolphins" and we were told to write "a composition" about the chapter we had just read. I didn't know the meaning of the English word "composition", so I looked it up in the dictionary in the back of the classroom. The definition was "A short essay". I didn't know the meaning of "essay" either so I looked it up, and the definition was "A composition". When I finally asked Miss Mance the meaning of the assignment, she thought I was being impudent and sent me back to my seat without an answer. There I sat, totally perplexed about what I was supposed to do when my classmate Werner Holstein whispered from the back of the room "Sakubun da yo. Sakubun" ("composition" in Japanese). Werner has been a lifelong friend.
Which teachers played an important role in your time at YIS?
Edward Bernard, inspired a great love and interest of history, which later became my major in college and the field in which I did Masters studies. Linda Merkel's Creative Writing class helped equip me with writing skills which have served me well in my life work.
Do you keep in touch regularly with YIS classmates? If so, please tell us about any particular reunions you have had.
A few years after graduation we had a well attended reunion in Yokohama. Then in early 2000s we had reunions in San Francisco and Seattle which were open to any former students from the '60s and '70s. These were warm and memorable occasions and many friendships picked right up where they had left off. Sadly three classmates have passed away.
Tim Cole's graduation insert in the 1974 Chowa yearbook
What grade at YIS would you want to relive, and why? Would you do anything differently?
Grades 10, 11 and 12 were all challenging but happy years, blessed with lasting friendships and pleasant memories. I can't think of many significant regrets. Perhaps I would have been kinder and friendlier to classmates who were less outgoing and had fewer friends.
Tell us about where you are based now, and what your occupation/lifestyle is, and what path you hope to pursue in the future?
I have been in various forms of Christian ministry since graduating from college and graduate school. I first worked in Outdoor Education for youth, then cooperated in "planting" four churches in northern Nagano Prefecture. Since 2002 I have been the Director of Family Forum Japan, a non-profit Christian organization providing parenting and marriage information and support to Japanese families. In this capacity I have written many articles and published several books in Japanese on marriage, parenting, sex education, and other topics of interest to parents, teens, and children.
Given your achievements and experiences, what advice would you give to YIS students in Gr. 11 or 12?
Be kind to everyone, but choose your inner circle of friends carefully and treat them with value. They very well may be some of the most important people in your life. Stay away from anything, including behaviors, which harm your mind and body - they are precious gifts from God, which are difficult to restore once they've been damaged. And no matter how bleak and dark things look, trust in God, and never lose hope.