Fall 2001
Volume 6 Number 1

A History of Exchange| Remembering Connections through War and Peace| Jewels in the Crown of Korea| A Wartime Connection Lasts a Lifetime| Where Edges Meet |
by Deadra Johns

1939. Japan was warring with China and strengthening its alliances with Germany and Italy. “The political situation was complicated,” according to Bokko Tsuchiyama, (PTS M.Div. in 1944; Th.M. in 1945; Ph.D. in 1964). On the day the recent movie Pearl Harbor opened in the U.S., Tsuchiyama reflected on what it was like to be the son of a Japanese pastor during World War II. 

In the fall of 1939 Tsuchiyama would turn twenty, the age when Japanese men were drafted. His father, Tetsuji, had visited Chinese churches in the war zone, where he learned firsthand what happened to Japanese pastors, and to the children of pastors, who were in the armed forces—they were sent to the front lines to an almost certain death. “Christians were not so welcome in Japan,” Tsuchiyama said. He recalled being ostracized by a group of students from his high school because he refused to join them when they worshiped at Shinto shrines.

Fearing for his son’s safety, Tsuchiyama’s father urged his son to go to the United States to study, as he himself had done more than a quarter century earlier. So in the fall of 1939, Tsuchiyama entered Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. Throughout his time at Greenville tensions between the United States and Japan grew. Tsuchiyama graduated in June 1942, just six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and he was uncertain about where he should go next. It was uncomfortable to be Japanese and living in the United States after Pearl Harbor. But it was dangerous to go back home, and going to Europe was out of the question. 

Bokko Tsuchiyama (second row, second from right) with his classmates

Tsuchiyama turned to his father for advice. When he told his father that he wanted to go to seminary, his father said that there was only one option: Princeton. His father knew Princeton firsthand; he had earned a Th.M. at Princeton in 1928. Tsuchiyama recalls that his father was comfortable with Princeton because it was “scholarly.” In 1942 Tsuchiyama enrolled in PTS’s accelerated program, which had been established to fill the growing demand for military chaplains, and so earned his degree in two years rather than the customary three.

Tsuchiyama has fond memories of his time at Princeton. He remembers, “This was the best place in the world to live in the war time—very peaceful. The students and professors were very cosmopolitan, broad-minded, generous, and kind.” He particularly loved PTS president John Mackay. Best of all, because of the scholarship aid he received, he didn’t have to work. During college he had earned tuition money by peeling potatoes, sweeping and scrubbing floors, shoveling snow. But at Princeton he could focus all his attention on theology.

He completed his degree in 1944, but stayed on to earn a Th.M. in 1945. By that time the war was nearly over, and he looked forward to returning to his home.

But the connection with Princeton continued. While serving as pastor and lecturer in churches and colleges on both sides of the Pacific, Tsuchiyama developed a passion not only for ministry but also for early childhood education. In 1955 he returned to Princeton to begin work on a Ph.D. in Christian education, with Professor D. Campbell Wyckoff as his advisor.

He credits Princeton with providing him with the tools and credentials for his impressive half-century career as pastor, professor, university president, and children’s center director. He established a college to train ministers and teachers, founded a children’s research program, and worked with the Economic Social Council of the United Nations to raise the standard of early childhood education in developing Asian countries. He describes his work as a Christian testimony to a secular society.

Over the years, attending Princeton Seminary has become something of a Tsuchiyama family tradition. In 1983, Tsuchiyama’s daughter and son-in-law, Noyuri and Toshio Watanabe, each earned masters degrees at PTS, becoming the third generation of Princeton graduates, which began with Tsuchiyama’s father and includes Tsuchiyama’s younger brother, Bokumin (Class of 1956).

Bokko Tsuchiyama (middle) with President and Mrs. Gillespie during his recent visit to Princeton.

Tsuchiyama attended the Seminary’s annual alumni/ae reunion this past May. During the reunion luncheon he presented President Gillespie with a check for $10,000. He said that he wanted to give something back to a place that had given so much to him: “I am very grateful to the Seminary for good education, training in pastoral ministry, Christian education, and social welfare ministry. Everything I did was rooted in Princeton, spiritually and intellectually. For me Princeton is a very precious place. I love Princeton Seminary.” 

Deadra Johns is coordinator of donor research and institutional planning.


Number of Asian Students at PTS
During the 2000-2001 academic year, there were ten Asian American students, fifty-six Korean American students, seventeen Korean National students, and twenty-one Asian National students at Princeton Seminary.

Number of PTS Alums in Asia
As of last fall, PTS alums served in twenty countries in Asia:

Bangladesh  1 New Zealand  15
China  3 Samoa  1
Hong Kong  8 Philippines  8
India  49 Singapore  2
Indonesia  18 Sri Lanka  5
Japan  46 Taiwan  20
Korea  68 Thailand  8
Malaysia  6 Tonga  1
Myanmar  7 Western Samoa 4
New Guinea  2  

The Program for Asian American Theology and Ministry, directed by PTS professor of systematic theology Sang Lee, was formed in 1984 with grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Henry Luce Foundation, as well as significant donations from Asian American churches and from churches in Korea. The office seeks to:

• Serve as a liaison between Asian American churches and Asian American students, helping with the placement process for graduates

• Organize continuing education programs for both Asian and Asian American pastors and lay leaders throughout the year

• Sponsor various conferences and seminars related to the issues of Asian American ministry and theology, as well as produce and sponsor relevant research publications on issues facing Asian American churches
• Assist other PTS administrative offices (e.g., the Office of Field Education, the Offices of Vocations and Admissions)

• Help to develop community relations within the Asian American community, as well as with the wider PTS community

• Luncheon for Asian, Pacific, and Asian American PTS students (in September, details TBA), cosponsored with the Asian, Pacific, Asian American Council. The purpose is to promote fellowship among Asian American students, faculty, and administration and to introduce them to relevant resources.

• The Asian Caucus Conference (details TBA) is a continuing education program for the Asian Caucus of the Synod of the Northeast in the PCUSA.

• The Korean Pastors’ Conference (April 1–4, 2002) is a continuing education program for first generation Korean American pastors.

• The Ethnic Chinese Biblical Colloquium (April 25–28, 2002) is a scholarly biblical studies forum.

• Asian American Theology and Ministry Forums are held throughout the academic year; they are open discussions of contextual Asian American theology and ministry issues.

For more information, contact the Program for Asian American Theology and Ministry at 609-497-7885 or asian-american@ptsem.edu.

A History of Exchange| Remembering Connections through War and Peace| Jewels in the Crown of Korea| A Wartime Connection Lasts a Lifetime| Where Edges Meet |

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