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Major Commitment to Benefit Japanese Women's Leadership Initiative and Create New Scholarship

(November 8, 2012) -- Trustee Atsuko Toko Fish and her husband, Lawrence K. Fish, have made a half-million dollar commitment to two significant forms of global outreach in partnership with Simmons. The couple has pledged half of the funds for the Japanese Women's Leadership Initiative and designated the balance for a new Fish Scholarship Fund at Simmons. [Make an online gift in support of the Fish Scholarship Fund.]

Atsuko Fish cofounded the Japanese Women's Leadership Initiative (JWLI) in 2006 with a desire to transplant the American model of nonprofit organizations to her home country of Japan. She specifically has sought to empower Japanese women to take the lead in putting the model to work. Since 2007, the Simmons School of Management, through its Center for Gender in Organizations, has been JWLI's institutional and academic partner.

"Philanthropy is relatively new to Japan, where traditionally government has met most societal needs. But people now realize government can't do it all – especially in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake," says Fish. She says women best understand the types of services needed, and the JWLI prepares them to lead the way in building the nonprofit sector and in making social changes. "But that requires overcoming cultural, traditional challenges."

"Women in Japan are still largely subservient to men, particularly in the business sector. We're helping women step forward as leaders," says Fish. "I hear glass ceilings – and walls – breaking in Japan, and it's making a loud noise!"

School of Management Dean Cathy Minehan says teaming up with the Japanese Women's Leadership Initiative makes perfect sense.

"Our partnership is mission driven. Atsuko shares our commitment to women and principled leadership and is 100 percent focused on the success of the JWLI program," says Dean Minehan, "Other individuals and groups in Japan are noticing what we're doing, and it has started a 'virtuous circle.'"

"Atsuko Fish's persistence and dedication have been critical to the program's success. She understands that change is a long-term process," says Patricia Deyton, director of the Center for Gender in Organizations and the JWLI program and faculty director.

To date, Atsuko and Lawrence Fish have made gifts and pledges to Simmons totaling more than $465,000 in support of the JWLI, specifically its Leadership Fellows Program. Now in its sixth year, the program brings Japanese women to Boston each fall for a month of training and mentoring at the SOM and leading non-profit groups. The couple's newest commitment will provide an additional five years of funding.

The Fish Scholarship Fund Promotes Global Citizenship among Students

The Fish Scholarship Fund will provide four-year scholarships to academically accomplished students who have demonstrated financial need. The scholarship is intended to support the types of students who have participated in a global leadership program at the Codman Academy in Dorchester, Mass., or a similar program at the Boston Boys and Girls Club sponsored by the Fish Family Foundation.

Lawrence Fish says the couple's Simmons scholarship extends to the college level their efforts to help high-potential students from inner-city communities develop an international perspective through travel. "We believe Simmons is a great school with a wonderful, professionally based, community-focused curriculum. It can offer these students real, hands-on opportunities following graduation," says Lawrence Fish. Each student's award from the Fish Scholarship Fund will include a stipend for an off-campus experience created to promote global citizenship and provide exposure to the world.


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