Toshizo Watanabe, founder of the Watanabe Trust Fund at the University of Iceland, was awarded the Icelandic Order of the Falcon by the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, at a formal ceremony at Bessastaðir on 22 May. Watanabe received the Order for his contribution to the strengthening of academic and cultural ties between Iceland and Japan. The Order of the Falcon is the highest honour the Icelandic state can bestow.
Toshizo Watanabe presented the University of Iceland with a donation of USD 3 million in 2008, which was used to found the Watanabe Trust Fund. In 2018, Watanabe donated an additional USD 2 million to the fund, bringing the capital up to USD 5 million, the equivalent of ISK 600 million. Following this generous donation, it has been possible to significantly increase the number of grants awarded from the Fund each year. A total of 90 students and researchers have received grants since the first allocations in 2011.
The Watanabe Trust Fund is intended to foster academic links between Iceland and Japan and has provided students at the University of Iceland with the opportunity to study at Japanese universities as well as enabled Japanese students to apply to study at the University of Iceland. The Fund has also supported academics at the University of Iceland to travel and conduct research in Japan and vice versa, thereby encouraging increased research collaboration between Iceland and Japan in various fields.
Toshizo Watanabe, founder of the Watanabe Trust Fund at the University of Iceland and the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, at a formal ceremony at Bessastaðir. The University of Iceland congratulates Toshizo Watanabe on receiving the Order of the Falcon.
The Fund has done a great deal to strengthen ties and collaboration between Japanese universities and the University of Iceland. The University of Iceland offers study programmes in Japanese language and culture at the Faculty of Languages and Cultures in the School of Humanities. Most students of Japanese take part of the programme at one of the twenty Japanese universities that the University of Iceland has bilateral contracts with. The number of students studying Japanese has almost tripled since the founding of the Watanabe Trust Fund and they now number around 100. This is a clear testament to the impact of the Fund on relations between the two nations. 13 students from the University of Iceland are currently taking part in exchange programmes in Japan and 15 Japanese students are studying at the University of Iceland. 44 researchers and postgraduate students (Master's and PhD students) in a wide range of field have received funding for academic and research work, both to travel from the University of Iceland to Japan and from Japan to Iceland.
The history behind the Watanabe Trust Fund is also interesting. Toshizo Watanabe, who is an entrepreneur and one of the owners of the Nikken company in the USA, was in his younger years an exchange student at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. There he met Geir H. Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland. Watanabe received a scholarship to fund his study in the USA and was forever grateful to those who supported his education. Watanabe wanted to repay the help he had received by establishing a fund to support young people to study abroad. He contacted Geir H. Haarde, his former classmate, with the idea of establishing a fund at an Icelandic university.
Toshizo Watanabe sits on the board of the Fund, along with the chair, Már Másson, professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Iceland, and Kristín Ingvarsdóttir, programme manager at the Nordic House.
The University of Iceland congratulates Toshizo Watanabe on receiving the Order of the Falcon and we would like to express our warmest thanks for his kindness and generosity towards the University.