Dr. Leslie Kawamura 1935-2011

From the Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary

Dr. Leslie Kawamura 1935 – 2011

We are very sad to announce the passing of Dr. Leslie Kawamura, Professor of Religious Studies and Holder of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies, on March 10, 2011. He will be dearly missed.

Professor Leslie Kawamura

We mourn the passing on March 10, 2011 of our esteemed colleague and dear friend, Leslie Kawamura.

Leslie Sumio Kawamura came to the brand new Department of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary in 1976, introducing Asian religions to the program of study. He brought with him impressive credentials, including an M.A in Buddhist History from Ryukoku University (Kyoto), an M.A. in Buddhist Philosophy from Kyoto University, and a Ph.D. in Far Eastern Studies from the University of Saskatchewan. He rose quickly to the rank of Full Professor (1983) and served as Department Head from 1983-88. He was instrumental in securing funds to establish the endowed Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies at the University of Calgary, which brought fifteen visiting scholars to the Department of Religious Studies between 1988 and 2006. In 2008, Leslie was named the first tenured Chair holder. In that role, he continued to teach, supervise graduate students, and pursue his research, as well as organize conferences and visits of Buddhist scholars to the Department.

Professor Kawamura was a world-renowned expert in Yogacara Buddhism. His publications include ten books, numerous articles, and presentations at universities throughout Canada, the United States, China, and Japan. He also contributed to the founding of various international scholarly organizations, such as the Canada Mongolia Society (1974), the International Association for Buddhist Studies (1977), The North American Association for Buddhist Studies (1977), The Society for Tibetan Studies in Alberta (1981), the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (1982), and the Buddhist Section of the American Academy of Religions, all of which seek to promote the study of Buddhism and Asian cultures in the academy.

Two awards bestowed upon him in recent years paid tribute to his many contributions to the University of Calgary. In 2004, he received the President’s Award for Internationalization, which acknowledged the key role he played in establishing the study of Asian cultures in programs throughout the University, including within the undergraduate and graduate programs of Religious Studies, the B.A. in East Asian Studies, and the South Asian and East Asian Studies minor programs. In 2010, he was inducted into the Order of the University of Calgary, an honour that recognizes exemplary and distinguished service to the University.

The work that Leslie did for the Department, the University, and for the field of Buddhist Studies will live on for a very long time. He graced the Department and the University with his energetic and smiling presence for thirty-five years. His colleagues and his students will feel his absence acutely.

Virginia Tumasz, Head, Department of Religious Studies

Professor Kawamura was an inspiration to my son and daughter-in-law, and to me. A guide and mentor to many, he will be sadly missed.

IBJournal: Daniel’s damage to public education

Indiana Business Journal
March 5, 2011


Things are getting crazy as state resources diminish. Our governor is clearly out of touch with reality. He wants to abolish the 1:600 ratio for elementary school counselors to students on top of drastically cutting back state-supported mental-health programs.

As the nuclear family continues to erode, Mitch Daniels has increased expectations and pressured schools to perform at higher levels. He believes that paying teachers bonuses for performance will increase student achievement. Not accurate, says a 2010 study by Vanderbilt University.

If anything, Gov. Daniels’ idea will foster a negative undercurrent in schools that decreases teacher collaboration. If there is to be bonus pay, it would only make sense to reward individual schools for “student growth.” This approach would increase subject-level collaboration and put healthy pressure on teachers to stay up with best practices.

Another proactive way he can accomplish his educational goals would be to extend the instructional day for low-achieving, at-risk students. This would require current financial resources to increase, which in the end would be a good use of funds, compared to people dropping out of school and having little chance at obtaining and keeping a good job. There is no easy way around the challenges we face. Either we become proactive and reach out further to students who struggle, or reactive and pay later to rehabilitate those who fail and/or drop out of society.

Mitch Daniels is interested in only one thing: increasing his ego and power by positioning himself to run for national office. Soon he will begin testing the water, trying to convince people that he is the man for the job because his state’s budget is balanced. Having a balanced budget may be a true statement, but has it been accomplished in a responsible way?

There is growing concern that Gov. Daniels’ intense push to overhaul Indiana’s education system seems to originate from a small group of special-interest groups. One such special-interest group is Patrick Byrne, chairman and president of Overstock.com, and also chairman of the Indianapolis-based Foundation for Educational Choice. Campaign-finance records show that Byrne, a Utah resident, donated at least $125,000 to Daniels since 2007 in addition to $15,000 for State Superintendent Tony Bennett. Byrne also gave $200,000 to Hoosiers for Economic Growth, which is a PAC that helped support GOP candidates last fall.

It is critical that people from all political points of view question our governor’s agenda. Clearly his educational policies are lacking in supportive data and unfortunately are currently blindly being followed down party lines.

Thomas Terrell

SHS on Academic Probation—School Board upgrades football practice field

What kind of message does the Salem Community Schools Board send to the students and to the community by deciding to upgrade the football practice field shortly after Salem High School was put on academic probation by the State Department of Education?

The old practice field is fifty years old and has seen plenty of use. Certainly football players, parents, and fans always want the best facilities for our students. Everyone can understand that. But, the Salem Community Schools Board represents the community, the tax payers, and the school system. They must allocate school funds and direct the work of school employees to provide the best education for every student in Salem Community Schools. SHS is on academic probation—and this is NOT a good time for expensive athletic improvements, especially because it is also a time of staff reduction and of constricting many school programs due to the economic crisis.

Several issues emerge:

* Why was there no public notice about this decision? There is no record of discussion in the Board Minutes for the past six months [excluding February, which is not yet posted to the public].

* Since the practice field is in a flood plain, has approval been sought and given by appropriate state flood control and land management agencies?

* What kind of damage will this upgrade cause to beautiful Brock Creek?

* Why would this upgrade be more important than other proposed improvements, such as the proposed improvement to the Bradie Shrum cafeteria? Having eaten at Bradie Shrum recently with a great-grandchild, I was stunned at the horrible environment in the cafeteria. The staff was friendly, caring, and worked hard, but the crowding and herding of the children, the regimentation and rushing of the meal, the dark cave-like atmosphere, the terrific noise, the children forced to eat with their coats on because they leave for recess afterward, all left me feeling I had experienced a nightmare. I am sad for our children who have to eat in such a grim and uninviting place every day.

* High school students always complain that the athletic program is given preference over other programs. This sneaky maneuver to begin an athletic field upgrade without public discussion is yet another confirmation of that complaint.


I Stand With the Teachers of Wisconsin
By Diane Ravitch on February 22, 2011 9:39 AM | 60 Comments | Recommend

Dear Deborah,

As I write, thousands of teachers are staging a protest in the state capitol in Wisconsin. Others stand with them, including the Green Bay Packers, other public-sector workers, and even public-sector workers who are not affected by the proposed legislation, namely, firefighters and police. The teachers and other public-sector employees are speaking out against Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to destroy their collective-bargaining rights. Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that’s not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union.

I wrote an article about this contretemps for CNN.com, not realizing that the teachers had already conceded the governor’s demands on money issues. The confrontation now is solely about whether public employees have the right to bargain collectively and to have a collective voice. Monday’s New York Times made clear, both in a column by Paul Krugman and in its news coverage, that the union is fighting for its survival, not benefits.

It’s time to ask: Why should teachers have unions? I am not a member of a union, and I have never belonged to a union, but here is what I see. From the individual teacher’s point of view, it is valuable to have an organization to turn to when you feel you have been treated unfairly, one that will supply you with assistance, even a lawyer, one that advocates for improvement in your standard of living. From society’s point of view, it is valuable to have unions to fight for funding for public education and for smaller class sizes and for adequate compensation for teachers. I recently visited Arizona, a right-to-work state, and parents there complained to me about classes of 30 for children in 1st and 2nd grades, and even larger numbers for older students; they complained that the starting salary for teachers was only $26,000 and that it is hard to find strong college graduates to enter teaching when wages are so low.

I have often heard union critics complain that contracts are too long, too detailed, too prescriptive. I have noticed that unions don’t write their own contracts. There are always two sides that negotiate a contract and sign it. If an administration is so weak that it signs a contract that is bad for kids, bad for the district’s finances, or bad for education, then shame on them.

The fight in Wisconsin now is whether public-sector unions should have any power to bargain at all. The fight is not restricted to Wisconsin; it is taking place in many other states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois. The battle has already been lost in other states.

I have been wondering if advocates of corporate school reform, such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Michelle Rhee will come to the aid of the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who were quick to applaud the firing of teachers in Central Falls, R.I., will now step forward to support the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if Secretary Duncan, who only a few days earlier had led a much-publicized national conversation in Denver about the importance of collaboration between unions and management, will weigh in to support the teachers. I am ever hopeful, but will take care not to hold my breath.

If there is no organized force to advocate for public education in the state capitols of this nation, our children and our schools will suffer. That’s the bottom line. And that’s why I stand with the teachers of Wisconsin. I know you do, too.