NC Japan Center director remembered
(Mar. 29, 2004)
Friends and family of Don Spence gathered March 27 to pay tribute to the man credited with fostering closer ties between the people of Japan and North Carolina.
Spence, who passed away Feb. 8, was the longtime director of the North Carolina Japan Center East and professor at East Carolina University. The reflections offered in Spence's honor at the memorial were bolstered by presentation of a certificate of appreciation by the Japanese Consulate.
Vice Consul Motohiro Nagamine presented the certificate of commendation at the memorial to Spence's sisters, Sue Fox and Ellen Hodges.
"There are many things for which Don Spence will be remembered: his passion for the understanding of Japan and his devotion and goodwill between the people of Japan and the United States, and especially the people of North Carolina," Nagamine said. "I hope others will pick up where he left off. The Consul General is committing all it can to continuing Don's work."
In addition to organizing numerous educational and cultural connections between Japan and the United States, Spence was also a member of ECU's College of Education faculty since 1983.
College of Education Dean Marilyn Sheerer remarked upon Spence's continued devotion to his life work and remarked that his contributions would not be forgotten.
Koto player Janet Ledbetter and shakuhachi player Clarence Ledbetter, both of Hillsborough, performed Saturday, March 27, 2004 at the memorial for Don Spence.
"On behalf of the faculty and staff, I would like to present a certificate that acknowledges Don's admission into the Educators Hall of Fame, as a tribute to the importance of Don's life and work," Sheerer said.
In 1985, Spence became the director of the North Carolina Japan Center East. The center sought to strengthen the state's academic, economic, scientific and cultural ties with Japan. During his tenure, Spence created the Global School Partnership Initiative and Exploris program, organizing exchanges between universities in North Carolina and Japan, leading to a closer relationship between the respective local communities.
Spence is also credited with developing the graduate certificate in international teaching for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. The JET program enables participants to receive college credit by completing coursework over the Internet while in Japan, leading to a master's degree in education upon the JET participant's return to the United States. "He was driven to create peace in the world and he did that through creating webs of understanding and took action through education," David Janes, program director for the New York-based US-Japan Foundation, said.
"Every day we hear news of war and dissention; Don's goal was to pierce through this and connect people and to build peace and understanding through respect and love."