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Anniversary memorial service planned for Japanese alumna

by Jeanne Baron

July 8, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Yukiko Murakami.
Yukiko Murakami
KALAMAZOO--A commemorative service at Western Michigan University July 14, will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of a Japanese exchange student and the establishment of a scholarship named in her honor that has helped nearly 90 U.S. and Japanese students study abroad.

The passing of Yukiko Murakami, a Keio University student who studied abroad at WMU in 1962, will be marked in a ceremony planned for 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 14, on the south lawn of Wood Hall.

The service will take place at the site of a memorial plaque in Murakami's honor that was installed Aug. 17, 2004, and be followed by a private on-campus reception in The Oaklands, at which family and friends, including her sister, Michiko Yamamoto, will pay tribute to Murakami.

Murakami was recognized in 1962 as the most active student among the study abroad group from Keio University. After she completed her course of study at WMU, Murakami traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia with friends. The accident that took her life occurred Aug. 17 on their return trip to Kalamazoo, when the bus crashed into a truck on the Ohio Turnpike. Murakami was the only passenger to die in the accident.

Friends and family in Japan and in the Kalamazoo community quickly proposed a campaign to raise funds to honor Murakami. WMU used those donations to establish a scholarship in her honor--the Yukiko Murakami Memorial Fund. The first award was made in 1963, which allows one student from WMU and a student from Keio University to study abroad with full funding each fall and winter semester at the partner university. Thirty-nine WMU students and 50 Keio students have received awards since the fund's inception.

Dr. Steve Covell, director of WMU's Michitoshi Soga Japan Center and chair of the Department of Comparative Religion, says the scholarship memorializes Murakami's significance as a student and by encouraging students to study abroad, honors the University's decades-long partnership with Keio University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan.

For more information about the Yukiko Murakami memorial service, contact Michiko Yoshimoto at or (269) 387-5874.