The Plattsburgh State community is mourning the loss of PSUC political science professor Hiroshi Itoh, 79, who passed away the night of Feb. 22.
PSUC President John Ettling sent out a school-wide email the afternoon of Feb. 23, to inform the community about the passing of its long-time professor, which startled many.
“It was sudden, and it came as a shock,” Ettling said. “From what I understand, he had been in his office at work the day he died, so it was definitely sudden and a shock to hear.”
Itoh joined PSUC in 1970 when he was hired to be an assistant professor in what was then called social sciences. Four years later, he was promoted to associate professor and specialized in law, comparative, international and Japanese politics and Asian issues. Then, in 1978, he became a full time professor in political science, but his career ambitions did not stop there.
“One of the things we can certainly take away from his long and rewarding career with us is the importance of students to everyone who works here,” Ettling said. “Those of us, like Itoh, who have committed to staying here for their career, have committed ourselves to helping our students achieve their academic goals here.”
In his 47 years at PSUC, Itoh was able to work with many different scholars and professors in his field. One in particular that had the privilege to work with Itoh is political science professor/chair Dr. Harvey Schantz had many things to say about the passing of his friend and colleague.
“Itoh was a valued colleague and an effective teacher, but most important to him, right up to the very end, was to be known as an accomplished scholar,” Schantz said. “He was a department leader and an inspiration to students.”
Schantz brought up the college’s international aspect and how Itoh reflected the campuses emphasis on international relations by implementing them in his teachings and scholarly research.
“He contributed greatly to the international flavor of the curriculum and faculty,” Schantz said. “He worked with the Canadian studies program to publish materials on Japan’s relations with Canada, and even edited a book on globalization and its impact on Japanese role in the world, later in life.”
Itoh published, “The Impact of Globalization on Japan,” in 2008 and, “The Supreme Court and Benign Elite Democracy in Japan,” in 2010.
Not only did he have these works published, but by helping organize the Asian studies minor in 2000 brought him to co-organize Japanese seminars held at McGill University in Montreal, and later published “Canada’s Asian Connection,” in 2001.
Itoh is considered to be one of the founders of the political science department at PSUC due to his seniority, being the eldest and longest-tenured in the department. Schantz has had plenty of opportunities to learn and grown under and alongside Itoh.
“He is really one of the founders of the political science department,” Schantz said. “He has helped maintain the department through the years and has made it a successful department in all of his years here since being one of the original members.”
Not only did Itoh love to teach and learn, but he also loved traveling the world. Itoh spent a great deal of his time away from work traveling to over one hundred different countries and even implemented his photographs and time spent over seas into his teachings as well.
“He would pick out one area of the world to go to each summer,” Schantz said. “That really is reflective of the type of person he was, because not only was he really dedicated to Japan, but he was a cosmopolitan-international-type-person.”
Teaching at PSUC gave Itoh the opportunity to live in the United States, while also being able to experience an international city only an hour away in Montreal, where he held many different lectures on his research. In the summers, he would travel to Japan to give lectures, which also exemplifies his intelligence in both the English language and Japanese, as well, which was his first language, having been born in Kurobane, Tochigi, Japan.
Another professor who worked closely with Itoh is history professor and Asian studies coordinator Jeff Hornibrook. Hornibrook helped Itoh launch the Asian studies minor in 2000, which has been a growing minor ever since.
“When I first got here, I was a young professor, so I joined a group called the ‘Asian Studies Committee,’ and Itoh was one of the leaders of that committee,” Hornibrook said. “He had tried in the past to create an Asian studies minor, but wasn’t able to get it all together because there weren’t enough courses, so he sort of pushed me to do that when I got there.”
Itoh later put Hornibrook in charge of the Asian studies minor due to the classes Hornibrook brought to the university, which has since taken off in its near 20 years of establishment.
“When I got here, he pushed me, and then it was easy,” Hornibrook said. “I pretty much did what he had already done and added a couple classes, and suddenly there is an Asian studies minor.”
Itoh and Hornibrook were able to form a relationship through their shared interests and extensive conversations about world affairs and global politics. Being able to work together gave each of them the opportunity to learn and grow together while also working toward the same goal.
“He had this veracious desire to learn,” Hornibrook said. “He wanted to bring in as many scholars as he could to bring in as many different ideas as he could. If you had any academic interest, he wanted to be part of it.”
Hornibrook gives all the credit to Itoh for his role in establishing the Asian studies minor, and says that if it weren’t for Itoh’s determination and dedication to wanting to bring such a program to PSUC, then there would be no program in place.
“He worked at this really hard, he was trying so hard to make it happen,” Hornibrook said. “By the time I got here, it wasn’t quite there yet, but he wasn’t giving up on it. He kept on fighting and making this all happen.”
Even those who had not been able to work with him over an extensive period of time, like assistant professor to political science Raymond Carman, has learned a great deal from Itoh despite only working with him for under three years.
“In many respects, he was the intuitional memory around the department being the most senior person in the department,” Carman said. “He was very dedicated to his idea of what the department should be, what education should be and what a scholar should be. He was a very productive scholar, and he had high expectations for all of his colleagues to be as well.”
There is no doubt that the ones who worked close with Itoh will miss his presence on campus, but will be able to reflect upon his hard work ethic and dedication to his academia.
“He always had a strong sense of how a classroom should be. It was very fundamental to him,” Carman said. “I was shocked. Dr. Itoh was a very energetic, busy person. I had just seen him earlier that week. It was so unexpected.”
Email Ezra Kachaturian at email@example.com