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#34 Sartor Resartus Retold: or, the Happiest Day of Manhattanville University

Keio Academy of New York has long developed a deep partnership with a Catholic institution Manhattanville College. Back in the 1980s, Keio Academy acquired part of its property and established the school in Purchase, Westchester County, New York in 1990, appointing president of Manhattanville College as a member of our trustees. It is this partnership that produced a number of exchange students between Keio University and Manhattanville College. Thus, on April 5th, 2024, we are very pleased to be able to participate in the Inauguration Ceremony of Dr. Frank D. Sanchez, who has skillfully succeeded in transforming Manhattanville College into Manhattanville University: history will record his name as the fifteenth president of Manhattanville College and the first president of Manhattanville University.

Being a born Catholic and a graduate of Sacred Heart University’s kindergarten in Tokyo, I find another significance in this enduring partnership; the genesis of Manhattanville University is located in the Academy of the Sacred Heart initially established in 1841 in Lower Manhattan.  In 1847 it was relocated in Manhattanville on the Upper Westside of Manhattan and in 1852, with the expansion of City University of New York, Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart sold its property, purchased the Whitelaw Reid estate in suburban Westchester County, and moved from Manhattan to Purchase, a hamlet of Harrison, New York, where its new campus was completed.  Accordingly, it is no wonder that in 1962 Japanese Princess Michiko, current Empress Emeritus, who graduated in 1957 from the Department of English of the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo, visited the Purchase campus. I assume that it is her visit to Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart that helped increase the number of Japanese (Supplementary) school closely affiliated with Christian church.

Therefore, I feel very honored to accept their invitation to the inauguration ceremony and the gala dinner at O’Byrne Chapel. By the same token, however, this event gives me a chance to vindicate my honor. When I was invited to the inauguration ceremony of Harvard University’s new president Dr. Claudine Gay on September 29, 2023 (Friday), I overlooked its dress code in the invitation letter: “After registering on Friday, delegates marching in the Academic Procession are encouraged to proceed to Boylston Hall to drop off their regalia and are asked to be back at Boylston Hall by 1:00 p.m. for robing and alignment.” Thus, I was forced to rent a black doctoral regalia from Harvard itself; without it I could not have been permitted to join the procession.

At this point we have to confront a fundamental problem. Does Keio University have a formal regalia?  No. Please note that whenever and wherever Fukuzawa Yukichi sensei showed up, he was dressed in kimono with no formal hakama or haori on; he hated the heritage of feudalism and authoritarianism so deeply as to perform his own democracy by making a habit of putting on a casual wear.  This is the reason why Keio University has never designed its formal regalia.

From another perspective, however, it is also true that Fukuzawa sensei , who was only eager to digest and import western ideas as represented by American democracy into modern Japan, could not have envisioned a future in which his school would have its New York branch approximately a century after he established Keio’s integrated educational system in 1893. Nonetheless, insofar as we are living in the 21st century, it is necessary to renovate our fashion system. While Fukuzawa sensei foregrounded the significance of learning in an anti-intellectualist way, we should not forget that putting on robes derived from the cassocks medieval European clerics wore to teach at Oxford, Heidelberg, or the Sorbonne narrates not only the status of the wearers but also the long  tradition of western learning and cultural affiliation. 

 Thus, I made up my mind to purchase my own Cornell doctoral regalia I didn’t dream of buying when I attended my commencement in Ithaca in May 1988.  Although Keio University as such does not plan to produce its own regalia, its branch Keio Academy of New York, which has been very active in the bilingual and bicultural milieu, is required to assume the responsibility for global negotiations with transnational academic institutions. Hence the tricultural version of Sartor Resartus.