Graduate Theological Union

And the Winner is … Ronald Y. Nakasone for the Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award

Ron Nakasone   

Ronald Y. Nakasone is a GTU Core Doctoral
Faculty Member and Professor of Buddhist Art
and Aesthetics at the Center for Art, Religion
and Education.

 

This year the Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award honors Ronald (Ron) Y. Nakasone as a teacher who embodies the values of interreligious sensitivity and commitment, interdisciplinary approach and content in teaching, sensitivity to ethnic and cultural diversity, and creative classroom pedagogical methods and performance.

“I am a teacher, yes, but I see myself as a mentor,” says Nakasone, who is a Buddhist cleric from the Pure Land tradition — one of the most popular traditions of Buddhism in East Asia — and a renowned calligrapher. And because of his interest in spirituality and aging, he is also on the faculty at Stanford Geriatric Education Center, charged with training caregivers who work with ethnic minorities.

Nakasone says spirituality in his ancestral home, Okinawa, and in Japan, where he has lived and taught, is based on filiality, or the relationship between the parent and child. “A child can never fully repay a parent, yet adult children care for their parents and their children learn about caring for parents by watching parents care for their grandparents. As people journey into elderhood, they attain kogai, a wisdom that comes from living long with awareness in the world.”

Of the Sarlo Award, Nakasone says, “Minorities always need to navigate between two or more cultures, which in and of itself is a laboratory for interfaith understanding. As a Buddhist cleric and in work with elders, I bring interfaith dialogue to real life situations. As an artist, my task is to give experiences form. And to my teaching at the GTU —I hope I bring all of this — sensitivity, a sense of relative values, and the Buddhist notions that nothing is absolute and everything is fluid.

“I learned much from my teachers in Japan through our informal conservations. Now I belong to a lineage of Japanese teachers who have a place for me whenever I visit Japan. I am so grateful for this kind of learning and teaching, and I like to think I’m doing the same thing here at the GTU,” he says. “What I hope for my students is that they will be open to change and alternate ways of being, thinking, and doing, and, in doing this that they will expand their moral and aesthetic imaginations, draw new maps, and chart new courses for humanity and the world.”

 

“I took Ron’s class to gain an Eastern perspective into art. What I took away from the experience was that aesthetic and an appreciation of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy which informs my own Christian faith.”

— Stuart Moore, Ph.D. Student, Art and Religion


George Sarlo, motivated by his family’s experience in the Holocaust during World War II, supports the GTU’s work to educate leaders who will promote justice and peace among people of diverse religions and cultures. Each year, students and faculty honor a faculty member for his/her creativity in guiding students to this end — with the Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award. George Sarlo

 

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