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21. Character is Higher than Intellect

During this year’s pre-entry period, Keio University’s President Kohei Itoh stayed at Keio Academy of New York, attending the annual meeting of New York Mitakai on September 6th, and giving a welcome speech at Entrance Ceremony on September 7th, 2022. However, he had another purpose; since his father “Frances K. Itoh” graduated from Hackley School in 1959, he wanted to pay a courtesy visit to this private college preparatory school located in Tarrytown, not very far from Keio Academy. Thus, as soon as we arrived at Hackley’s beautiful campus in the afternoon of September 6th, Mr. John Gannon, director of Development and Alumni Affairs, gave us a wonderful tour and introduced us to headmaster Michael C. Wirtz.

Founded in 1899, Hackley School clarified its mission statement enumerating the four core values: “Enter Here to be and find a friend”; “United, we help one another”; "Character is higher than Intellect”; “Go forth and Spread Beauty and Light.”  Being a scholar of American Renaissance, I was especially intrigued with the third one based upon Ralph Waldo Emerson’s tenet that "Character is higher than Intellect.” ( This discovery invited me to speculate upon coincidences between Keio and Hackley.

Our founder and Enlightenment thinker Fukuzawa Yukichi, who had refused traditional religions and appreciated western science, came to know and accept in 1883 the discourse of Unitarianism, the modern version of Christianity, through his eldest son Fukuzawa Ichitaro who studied at Cornell University and Eastman College from 1883 through 1888. Unitarianism started by renouncing the doctrine of the Trinity consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, deprived Christianity of supernatural elements and promoted a religion of reason and liberal theology fit for the Age of Enlightenment. Without the deistic idea of Unitarianism Founding Fathers such as John Adams (1735-1826) and Thomas Jefferson (1843-1826) could not have completed the American Revolution successfully.  Especially Jefferson, the author of “The Declaration of Independence” (1776), admired the achievements of British theologian and chemist Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), who not only succeeded in the isolation of seven gases, the most notable being oxygen, but also redefined Jesus Christ in the Unitarian context as a moral leader whose teachings were comparable with natural laws. Thus, in 1820 Jefferson published The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth nicknamed the “Jefferson Bible” by demystifying Jesus Christ: that is to say, by cutting, pasting and remixing with a razor and glue a number of sections of the New Testament. Finding no allusion to Annunciation and Resurrection, an orthodox Christian must have been astonished and even dismayed by the Jefferson Bible. However, it is the very rationalistic tenets of Unitarianism that attracted Fukuzawa so much as to invite a Unitarian minister Arthur May Knapp of Harvard University to Keio Gijuku. Following Knapp’s suggestions, he made up a list of visiting professors from Harvard including Prof. Thomas Sergeant Perry, son of a nephew of Commodore Perry.









Meeting with Fukuzawa for the first time in 1888, Knapp was favorably impressed with his massive frame and dignity that immediately reminded him of Emerson, who started his career as a Unitarian minister of Boston’s Second Church in 1829, left it in 1832 and ended up by championing his own philosophy of Transcendentalism expressed in his “Divinity School Address” in 1838, which was to give tremendous impacts upon not only American Romanticists like Hawthorne, Melville and Emily Dickinson but also philosophers such as William James, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and Harold Bloom.

This is the reason why Fukuzawa's national bestseller The Encouragement of Learning (1972) could well be called the Japanese version of Emerson's "The American Scholar" (1837).  For the relationship between Fukuzawa and Knapp, see below:

In this sense, I'm very happy to empower the friendship between Keio Academy and Hackley, which will unlock another gate to Transpacific, Transcultural and Transdisciplinary Studies.