The forerunner to Hokusei Gakuen was a girls’ school, which was established by American missionary Sarah C. Smith. When the school was renamed Hokusei Girls’ School, Inazo Nitobe, an official involved in the school’s management, played an essential role. Nitobe is the author of the well-known book Bushido: The Soul of Japan and also dedicated himself to promoting world peace as one of the first Under-Secretaries General of the League of Nations. Amid the general atmosphere of male chauvinism in those days, Nitobe emphasized the importance of character education for women, and he made a great impact on the education at Hokusei Girls’ School. Sarah Smith and the other individuals involved in the school’s establishment also believed in character education and a spirit of dedication to society. This spirit has been passed down through various educational programs, particularly those promoting international exchanges which build bridges to other cultures. These include student exchange programs with many sister schools, as well as various short-term study programs. This spirit also led to the dispatches of student volunteers in the wake of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
Lilac trees, designated as the official tree of Sapporo, are popular among local residents. They are believed to have been brought to Sapporo for the first time by Sarah Smith from her hometown, Elmira, New York. Many of the lilac trees now blooming on Hokusei’s campus were grafted from the offspring of trees introduced by her. I hope that all graduates of Hokusei Gakuen University will become deeply rooted in society, like those lilacs, and thrive and contribute to society while remaining true to the spirit of the school’s founder.