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Director of East Asia Resource Center receives one of Japan’s highest honors

May 8, 2018

Photo by Katherine Turner The Block W statue at the North entrance to the UW Seattle campus.
The Block W statue at the North entrance to the UW Seattle campus. Photo by Katherine Turner.

Mary Hammond Bernson, director of the Jackson School’s East Asia Resource Center for over 20 years and former president of the Japan-America Society in Washington state, has been awarded an Order of the Rising Sun from the Government of Japan. The honor, established in 1875 as Japan’s first order, is one of the most prestigious awards bestowed by Japan.

Mary Bernson

Director of the UW Jackson School East Asia Resource Center Mary Bernson

The Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle made a public announcement earlier this week about the award to Bernson “for her contribution to promoting understanding of Japan in the United States and educational exchange between Japan and the United States.” One area for which Bernson was honored is her support for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program since its establishment in 1988.

“I feel privileged to work with so many dedicated and inspiring educators,” says Bernson, upon learning she was awarded an Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. Bernson is one of only 140 foreign recipients and one of 21 women who received the award this year, which also includes former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who received it at the Grand Cordon level.

The East Asia Resource Center, housed in the Jackson School and with funding from private foundations, provides professional development programs and teaching resources about East Asia to U.S. elementary and secondary school teachers. Its mission is to deepen educators’ understanding of East Asia and improve their teaching about the region.

In addition to her directorship role, Bernson co-founded and co-directs the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, now in its twenty-first year. Among the summer institutes, seminars and other East Asia Resource Center programs, she has led or co-led 15 study tours to Japan. These study tours have been funded by the Freeman Foundation, through a 20-year partnership with the Hyogo Business and Cultural Center, the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad and other funders.

“This is a most appropriate recognition of Mary’s long years of dedicated work on East Asian Studies,” said Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba. “We are grateful and proud to have Mary as a colleague, and that our work and longstanding commitment to the study of Japan is held in such high esteem by the Japanese government.”

Bernson has also brought in and led over $12 million dollars in grants to fund professional development programs for teachers throughout the Northwest and nationally, and has contributed to other grant proposals and grant-funded projects.

This is the second time a Jackson School faculty or staff has received the Order of the Rising Sun. In 1998, Jackson School Professor Emeritus Kenneth B. Pyle received an Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, for his contributions to Japanese studies. In addition, the founder of the Jackson School from 1909-1939, Professor Herbert H. Gowen, was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan.