Japan dean selection narrows down to two

The field of candidates to fill the top position at Temple University Japan has been narrowed to two finalists. The names of two Americans, with fluency in Japanese and distinguished careers in Asia, were released

The field of candidates to fill the top position at Temple University Japan has been narrowed to two finalists.

The names of two Americans, with fluency in Japanese and distinguished careers in Asia, were released over the past week. Both made appearances on Main Campus for the latest stage of a multi-step interview process to become dean of Temple’s growing Tokyo campus. There is not a set date for a final decision yet, although it is expected before the end of the calendar year.

Matthew J. Wilson, 37, current associate dean and chief legal counsel for TUJ, fielded questions from students and staff in two sessions last Tuesday in the Student Center.

Bruce Stronach, 57, is now the president of a mid-sized university in Yokohama, a city of 3.5 million about 20 miles south of Japan’s capital and largest city. Stronach faced students and staff yesterday in a similar session.

Wilson has been with TUJ for the past four-and-a-half years and has rapidly ascended through administrative ranks in that time.

Originally from Utah, Wilson said he first discovered a passion for Japan as a teenager during a year-long missionary trip with the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-Day Saints. He was sent to Hokkaido, the northernmost Japanese island.

“Japan got into my blood,” he said. “I don’t think it ever will get out.”

After returning in 1990, Wilson pursued a law degree from Temple. In 1997, he spent a semester at TUJ before graduating in 1999.

He was taken on as a professor of law at TUJ in April 2003 and began what has been a rapid ascension. Just two months later, he was named the law program’s director. Then, a little more than a year later, he was installed both as TUJ’s chief legal counsel and associate dean. Those positions were coupled with a semester as director of TUJ’s undergraduate program last spring.

If appointed, he would be the youngest dean in that campus’s history.

But he said he doesn’t think this should be something to overcome.

“It would be great for an American university to step up and say we choose ability over age,” he said.

He also considers his tenure at TUJ to be a valuable asset.

“I won’t have an on-the-job learning period,” he said.

Stronach is a campus outsider with an academic career that spans three decades and two continents.

Stronach has been serving as the head of Yokohama City University since 2004. Prior, he spent more than 25 years as an administrator, researcher, lecturer and professor split between institutions in Massachusetts and Japan.

Stronach, who has never worked for or attended Temple, first enrolled at Boston University in 1968, before Wilson was even born, but dropped out in 1970 before graduating. Two years later, he entered a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire, graduated, and then entered and completed a doctorate program in international relations at Tufts University.

Stronach expressed an interest in further developing TUJ’s image as a permanent fixture of higher education in Japan and working on partnerships with other Japanese universities.

“I want TUJ to become more of a Japanese institution,” he said. “Not just the extension campus of Temple University.”

Still, he admitted not knowing much about the daily operations of TUJ, though he has a long friendship with outgoing TUJ dean Dr. Kirk R. Patterson.

It was Aug. 27 that Patterson announced he was retiring as dean of TUJ, effective at the end of this calendar year. Though just 54, Patterson, who joined Temple in early 2002 after a career in public relations, has expressed a desire to return to his native Canada and tend to family matters elsewhere. During his tenure, TUJ has seen sizable enrollment increases and a stabilization of longtime budget concerns.

TUJ, celebrating its 25th anniversary, is the oldest and largest foreign university in Japan.

The search committee is composed of 16 members, nine of whom are based in Tokyo and seven in Philadelphia, including committee chair Concetta Stewart, dean of the School of Communications and Theater. They are expected to make their recommendation by Dec. 1.

With the search committee’s recommendation in consideration, the final decision will be made by University President Ann Weaver Hart and Provost Lisa Staino-Coico.

Christopher Wink can be reached at cwink@temple.edu.

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