Published: March 1, 2014 By

A Fulbright First

Akira Horie

Akira Horie (MMktg’54)

It was seven years after the end of World War II and U.S. troops still walked the streets of Japan when Akira Horie (MMktg’54) decided he wanted to study in America. The 23-year-old University of Tokyo graduate had seen his government adopt a democratic system under America’s watch and had studied texts like America’s Role in the World Economy by Harvard professor Dr. Alvin H. Hansen.

“I wanted to study in the U.S., which I believed would help and influence Japan greatly after the war,” says the 84-year-old Akira who lives in Kamakura, Japan.

The young student applied to study abroad on a scholarship that was tied to what was then a budding international education program — the Fulbright program — to promote cross-cultural understanding. Akira came to be among the first class of Japanese Fulbright scholars to study in America.

He didn’t know much about CU before arriving, but he was immediately impressed by Colorado’s mountains and a campus life that was much different from the desperate conditions in post-war Japan where hunger was routine. While getting his master’s degree in business, Akira recalls rock climbing with the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group and skiing Colorado’s peaks.

It is likely that Akira was one of few Japanese students studying abroad as it was still a young concept in Japan, says Lawrence Bell, executive director of CU-Boulder’s Office of International Education.

Japanese lanterns

After graduation, Akira went to work with the global multifaceted business company Mitsubishi Corp. where he stayed until he retired. The job took him to New York City for 10 years where his first assignment was handling imports and exports between Japan and the U.S. He also worked in Vancouver, B.C., for four years, building a pulp mill and exporting pulp and lumber. Before he retired he was senior managing director, general manager of Nagoya Branch at Mitsubishi.

Akira says he had CU-Boulder to thank for preparing him to be successful in his positions.

Though he has drifted far from Boulder, he stays connected through the Tokyo alumni chapter and once served as its president. When United Airlines launched the direct Tokyo to Denver flight in June 2013, Akira and other Japanese alumni held events for CU representatives on the flight. Bell was on the flight and says Akira still proudly sports a CU baseball cap and tie.

“He’s still very much a Buff,” Bell says.

Photography ©Shutterstock/Neale Cousland