U of T’s Dr. Michael Donnelly to receive Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon

“I was of course humbled and pleased,” says professor emeritus Michael Donnelly when congratulated on being granted the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.

Donnelly was awarded for his work toward a better understanding of Japan in Canada and for developing academic exchange between the countries.

The 57 recipients for this fall’s awards were announced on November 3. The ribbon will be shipped to Canada for a decoration ceremony set to take place sometime after the holiday season.

Founded by Emperor Meiji in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun consists of six classes of awards honouring foreign nationals for their contributions to the improvement of Japanese international relations.

The Order of the Rising Sun is traditionally given to leaders in their fields, such as professors, institutional presidents or vice-presidents, consul generals, or foreign ambassadors.

Donnelly visited Japan in 1959 to work in the American Naval Public Information Office. He then earned his doctorate from Columbia in 1978, with studies focusing on Japan and East Asia.

His academic career has included not only the University of Toronto, but also visiting professorships and research positions at six Japanese universities.

In their press release, the Japanese Consulate in Toronto referred to Donnelly as a “pioneer in Japanese political studies.”

Donnelly helped establish the Japan Studies Association of Canada, serving as its president from 1997–1998. In 2000, he founded the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs, where he was director for five years.

Donnelly was instrumental in pushing the expansion of Asian studies at the University of Toronto, a feat that he is particularly proud of.

“In any interdisciplinary program, you have to get all these departments to collaborate. One of the most important things for me since 1975 has been teaching undergraduates. It keeps the atmosphere vibrant,” says Donnelly.

Since his retirement in 2005, Donnelly has continued to teach various courses and has been on a visiting professorship to Japan. The country remains a special place to him.

“Japan is still a vibrant, wonderful place to be,” says Donnelly. “I’ve lived there 10 or 12 years. It’s a country that just gives me an ever endless source of enthusiasm and wonderment.”

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