Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Klaus Luhmer, former Chancellor of Sophia University

Luhmer MetroCard
[FYI: For a printable version of this entry and for the Japanese Eulogy delivered by Fr. Jerry Cusumano, S.J., on the occasion of Fr. Luhmer's funeral, please click the following link and view the first entry: http://pweb.cc.sophia.ac.jp/britto/xavier/ ]

I hate to make this into a blog of obituaries, but unfortunately so many illustrious professors and builders of Sophia University are disappearing that I am forced to write something about at least some of them. Just a couple of minutes ago, I heard that Fr. Klaus Luhmer, one of the most well-known faces of Sophia University, passed away at the age of 94, at 12:20 PM today (March 1, 2011).

LuhmerAs a young man
My association with Klaus goes back to many years, but it started getting closer and warmer since the time he started using computers and email, in mid-1990s. He was one of the most athletic, energetic, and enthusiastic men around, and so his curiosity knew no bounds. He boldly embraced the Internet, and despite numerous 'electronic accidents', he continued to use it and do creative work with it. I believe he started engaging himself seriously in Montessori-style education around that time, and he started translating, writing, and editing numerous books and articles on Montessori--of course, with several Japanese collaborators, one of his closest associates being Professor Masako Ejima. He also became the President of Nihon Montessori Association (日本モンテッソーリ協会会長) and was eager to give some exposure to the Association on the Internet. That was what brought us together. Following his suggestions and recommendations, I opened a Montessori web site for him at Sophia (with web-data created by another Montessori colleague), since the Association had some links with Sophia University then. Sophia, unfortunately, cut off its ties to the Association after some years, and so the Webpages had to be removed. Luhmer too gave up the Association's Presidency in favor of some other person.

Luhmer skating at the age of 84!
Around the same time, I also created a Web site for Fr. Luhmer, aptly named LUHMERLAND (see http://pweb.cc.sophia.ac.jp/luhmer/), listing major events in his life and the series of Montessori books he authored, edited, or translated. Even after he moved to Loyola House, he continued supplying some information for the Web page, including his meeting with Agnes Chan, a Sophia University alumna and a teen idol of the 1970s. Fr. Luhmer really enjoyed life and loved to be in the company of people, and so he was constantly on the move meeting persons, giving talks, and visiting the sick. It was hard to keep up with all his activities, and so I have to confess that I was a bit negligent in reporting many of his activities.

Here is a list of some major events in his life:

**1916, September, 28 : Luhmer was born in Koln, Germany. Had his early education at Beethoven Gymnasium near Bonn.

**1935, April 26 : Entered the Society of Jesus.

**1937, February 18: Arrived in Japan, via Siberia, with other illustrious Jesuits such as L. Laures & Erlinghagen, after 13 days of travel! Studied Japanese in Tokyo and Hiroshima for about 18 months, and then studied philosophy at Hiroshima noviciate for about three years.

**1943: Studied at Tokyo Azabu Theologate, while experiencing many aerial attacks and bombs.

**1945 July 1: Ordination to priesthood, and on August 6, witnesses the incredible atomic bomb over Hiroshima, from a distance of 4 kilometers. Enters the bombed zone within the city several times to help the wounded, rescue Fr. Enomiya Lasalle, and save some Church relics and sacred vessels. Thus becomes acquainted first hand with the atom bomb, and also gets affected with some skin infection.

**1947: After acquiring teaching skills at Kobe Rokko Gakuin, proceeds to Detroit University, USA, for studying Educational Administration.

**1953: Enters Sophia University as a Professor in the Department of Education, Faculty of Literature. He teaches Western Educational History and Comparative Education.

**1957-1965: Holds the position of Sophia University Chancellor. Among his achievements as Chancellor were the buying of the Kioizaka Building, establishment of the Science Faculty, and the recruitment of illustrious Japanese to hold important positions.

**1965: Is in charge of Public Relatioins, and gives publicity to Sophia overseas. Also sees to the publication of student newspaper and dissemination of information about Sophia.

**1969: For about three years--especially during the Student Unrest period--serves as the Vice-President of General Affairs under President Moriya.

**1985, November: Receives an Award from the Japanese Government for his services (勲三等旭日中授賞)

**1987: Even as he is ready to retire at the age of 70, he is appointed the Chancellor of Sophia University once more! Also made a Professor Emeritus.

**1992 March: Retires from the job of Chancellor, and takes up wholeheartedly and intensely the study of Montessori Education. Visits various countries like India and Italy to get to know Montessori first hand, and attends many conferences on Montessori. Becomes President of Nihon Montessori Association. Publishes several books (see http://pweb.cc.sophia.ac.jp/luhmer/album.htm), including The origins of Liberal Education: From Plato to Montessori, The Way of Montessori Education, and Schule und Ildungsreform In Japan I & II

**Fr. Luhmer was not only an academic, but also a sportsman, doing ice-skating even in his mid 80's, and a man of many talents. He loved playing the flute and organ, often playing with friends in an ensemble. Even at the age of 90, he was learning Korean, Spanish, Italian, and French listening to the NHK radio!

Klaus With Pope JPII
Fr. Luhmer was perhaps born to govern as he spent most of his life occupying positions of power and administration. Still, he had a simplicity and gentleness that made him amiable and approachable. He was friendly with all and never put on airs. Like most great men and women of history, he had a way with fellow human beings, and dealt with them respectfully, fairly, and generously. He seemed adept in using languages--especially Japanese--and wielded Japanese ably to raise funds, extract cooperation, and encourage colleagues. He used to speak of the verbal and non-verbal cues that the wealthy gave him whenever he went fundraising, and had a list of signs that guided him when to continue a conversation and when to cut it short.

Klaus with a medal
Funeral Arrangements:
WAKE: March 3, 2011 (Th), 19:30, at St. Ignatius Church, Yotsuya, Tokyo
FUNERAL: March 4, 2011 (F), 13:30, at St. Ignatius Church, Yotsuya, Tokyo

1 comment:

Shigetaka Ijichi said...

Thank you for passing the news [of Fr. Luhmer's death]. I knew his end was near since his declining health through his advanced age was mentioned by a couple of friends while I was in Japan. He was probably the sharpest brain among the priests I encountered at the university. He was quintessentially German, too, at his private moments. I remember I went to a concert in Tokyo in 1961 of the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by a very German conductor, Wilhelm Schuhiter, with Hans Hotter as the soloist, playing Wagner. Even to date, people talk about that particular performance, and Fr. Luhmer was uncharacteristically excited and talking about the incredible performance almost non stop.

Shigetaka Ijichi