In Response to: In Brief

I was heartbroken to learn about the loss of Professor Richard Okada of the East Asian studies department (Campus Notebook, May 16). He was an intellectual idol for me and, I suspect, for countless others around him. 

I had the honor and good fortune to have Professor Okada as my ­senior-thesis adviser. He challenged me to think harder and to be brave in my assertions in order to create something personal and unique — a series of Japanese film analyses, in my case. Thanks to his guidance and intellectual example, I won a departmental thesis award and, more importantly, I was able to write something I was truly proud of.

Aside from his kindness, what struck me most about Professor Okada was the span of his interests, from the ancient to the modern, from literature to ecology and cultural studies. When I went back to visit in 2009, we talked about scholarship he was working on in advance of the 1,000th anniversary of the classical Tale of Genji, and also about our favorite new Japanese reggae groups and the newest films by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. In this sense, he was both a rare friend who shared many of my contemporary Japanese cultural interests and an academic mentor whose intellect was always deeply inspiring.

I like to remember Professor Okada in his sanctuary in Jones Hall, where we last met in person. As we chatted, he was surrounded by books and also, it seemed to me, by ideas and intellectual excitement. It seems inconceivable that he is gone now. 

Chris Sedgwick ’07