T(akashi) James Kodera, ’72, ’74, ’76

Categories: Alums in the World

What do you do? 

After teaching for three years at Oberlin College, 1973-76, I moved to Wellesley College in 1976, where I am now Professor of Religion. My teaching field is Comparative and Historical Study of Religion, with a focus on Asia, especially Buddhism. “Asia,” a Greek term, has always referred to a large geographical and cultural areas; many religions have come from Asia. Many of the earliest Christian churches were in “Asia Minor,” today’s Turkey. One of my many interests is the inner connection between contemplation and action. Currently, I am working on a research on Takashi Paul Nagai, a Christian convert, radiologist, atomic bomb survivor, if for 6 years, and a pacifist. He is the main reason why Nagasaki is known today as the “city of prayer,” while Hiroshima as the “city of anger.”

How did Union prepare you for this?

I benefited in so many different ways from Union: courses I took at Columbia, the community at Union, among others. Union’s historic commitment to activism has inspired and shaped me, now as an educator and an Episcopal priest. In 1985, I was the first Asian American ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, one of the charter dioceses, going back to 1784.

What is the best thing about your job?

Too many to cite! Among them: opportunities to challenge young minds, to inspire them into a service vocation, whatever profession they may choose. I also cherish the opportunity to study the global human communities.

How have you stayed connected to Union?

Mostly through fellow graduates, both in the US and abroad.

What would you say to someone considering going to Union?

Be inspired, be empowered, so that they can reciprocate the vocation of inquiry and service.