ND community remembers late Minamiki
By ALLY JAY
Renowned scholar of classical and Oriental languages and professor emeritus Father George Minamiki died Jan. 4 while visiting family in Los Angeles. He was 84.
Minamiki graduated from Loyola University of Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and held graduate's degrees from Gonzaga University and Alma College. He earned his doctorate from Notre Dame in 1977.
"George came to my attention when we were sending students to Tokyo and setting up a program there," said Father Theodore Hesburgh, Notre Dame president emeritus. "He had joined the Jesuits and done his training in Japan, so he worked with me to set up the program. For years he did a great job teaching Japanese and helped make it easy for students, and let me tell you I've studied Japanese and it's not so easy to learn. We never had a Japanese professor as good as Minamiki."
According to Hesburgh, Minamiki was a private man who was devoted to being a good priest and teacher.
"He wasn't flamboyant, but he did a good job in a quiet way. It's really the quiet guys like that which makes this place go," said Hesburgh.
Before coming to Notre Dame in 1968, Minamiki spent 11 years as a teacher and administrator at Jesuit high schools in Japan. He spent the last six years as headmaster of Hiroshima Gakuin. After arriving at Notre Dame, Minamiki began teaching Japenese to hundreds of Notre Dame students. In recognition of his excellent teaching, Minamiki Japanese won the 1988 Sheedy Award for Excellence in Teaching in the College of Arts and Letters, and in 1991 was a co-recipient of the Madden Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen.
Besides teaching, Minamiki was instrumental in welcoming Japanese families into the Notre Dame family.
"He helped get together families who came over when they set up some Japanese companies near South Bend. A lot of the families came here from Japan to work. They didn't have a church but Minamiki would invite them here to have mass," said Hesburgh.
When he retired, Minamiki chose to continue living at Notre Dame.
"When he was 65, he looked pretty young, maybe like he was sixteen, and we were talking about how his provincial said Minamiki could stay on and teach a few classes or leave. He told me that "This[Notre Dame] has been the center of my life" and chose to stay on and had an apartment here."
According to Hesburgh, Minamiki's presence will be sorely missed, especially by the hundreds of students he touched through his teaching here.
All News Stories for Thursday, January 17, 2002