The TDK U.S.A. Corporation will donate $100,000 to Harvard's East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department to fund two doctoral fellowships in East Asian humanities beginning this fall, the company announced last week.
The U.S. subsidiary of the Japanese cassette and electronics manufacturer made the gift as "part of our policy to contribute to education and art," Vice President of Administration Ken Aoshima said yesterday.
The agreement comes at a time of high tension between the two nations over U.S. trade deficits and highprofile Japanese buying of American holdings. The grant "doesn't have anything to do with business," Aoshima said, emphasizing the immediate need for a better understanding of Japan by Americans.
Beginning in September, the TDK grant will provide $25,000 a year to the top two doctoral candidates in Harvard's E.A.L.C. Department for tuition and living expenses for the next two years, according to a letter from TDK U.S.A. outlining the program.
Negotiations are underway between the E.A.L.C. Department and TDK to continue the grant for 10 years, or up to $1 million, said Associate Professor of Japanese Haruko Iwasaki.
"We want to make this an honor for the students who receive it," said Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature Stephen Owen. Owen said he was encouraged by the Port Washington, N.Y.-based company's commitment in creating the "TDK Fellows" to the humanities.
With interest in Japan growing rapidly in recent years, the department has encountered severe funding problems accommodating the influx of students. The graduate program in Japanese humanities has been particularly underfunded, Iwasaki said.
The number of applicants for doctoral fellowships has tripled in the last five years, reaching 100 this year, Iwasaki said. Of 74 who applied last year, funding could be provided for fewer than the dozen who ultimately enrolled.
"To get graduate student fellowships for humanities is the hardest thing, that's why I'm so thankful to TDK," said Iwasaki. She added that Harvard's E.A.L.C. department has lost many of the nation's best candidates to schools with better funding.
As stipulated by the agreement, TDK will review its gift within six months to decide if it will donate additional funds. Owen and Aoshima said TDK U.S.A. was positive about continuing support.
Although the gift may be applied to Japanese, Chinese or Korean studies at the department's discretion, TDK favors Japanese research, Aoshima said.
He emphasized the importance of students of Japanese humanities to the future of relations between the U.S. and Japan, and added that TDK has a long-term commitment to improved understanding between the two nations.
In 1983 TDK gave $1 million to the MIT to establish a "TDK" professorship" in material sciences. The latest grant comes as the Japanese government has been urging Japanese businesses to boost philanthropy in American communities, in part to ameliorate trade relations between the two countries.