Dr. LaFleur, East Asian Languages and Civilizations

Dr. William R. LaFleur, professor of Japanese, and East Asian languages and civilizations, passed away from a massive heart attack on February 26, 2010. He was 73 years old.

Born in Patterson, New Jersey in 1936, Dr. LaFleur began his higher education at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and continued with graduate training at the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. Dr. LaFleur taught as an authority on Japanese intellectual history at Princeton University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Sophia University in Tokyo. In 1989 he became the first non-Japanese scholar to receive the Watsuji Tetsur? Culture Prize.

In 1990 he came to the University of Pennsylvania as professor of Japanese and the Joseph B. Glossberg Term Chair Professor of Humanities. Since 1998 Dr. LaFleur served as the E. Dale Saunders Professor in Japanese Studies in the department of East Asian languages and civilizations, and also as a professor in the department of religious studies.

Dr. LaFleur’s published books covered topics from medieval literature in Mirror of the Moon (1978) and Awesome Nightfall (2003), both studies of the priest-poet Saigy? (1118-1180). Other works covered broader issues of religious thought, including The Karma of Words (1986) and Buddhism in Cultural Perspective (1988). He dealt with complicated issues of abortion in Liquid Life (1992). He edited Zen and Western Thought: Essays by Masao Abe (1985), recipient of a prize from the American Academy of Religion, and D?gen Studies (1985). He also edited Dark Medicine: Rationalizing Unethical Medical Research (2008), a study on Japanese critics of American biotechnology and bioethics.

His department noted that, “As a gifted poet and philosopher, Dr. LaFleur brought humanity and wisdom to the study of everything he encountered, from the taste of tea to the technology of medicine, from hungry ghosts to haiku poets. His students, colleagues, friends and family will miss him immensely.”

Dr. LaFleur is survived by his wife, Mariko; his son, David; and daughters, Jeanmarie and Kiyomi.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, April 3, (changed from April 4) at 11 a.m.-noon at the Radnor Friends Meetinghouse with a reception to follow at The Willows in Villanova.

Please see the links below for both the Meetinghouse and The Willows: www.quaker.org/radnor/index.html, www.radnor.com/egov/apps/locations/facilities.egov?path=detail&id=1

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to The Meadow Project, Radnor Religious Society of Friends, P.O. Box 8196, Radnor, PA 19087.

Since parking space at the Meetinghouse is limited, the family asks attendees to park at The Willows. It is a four-minute drive from there to the Meetinghouse. The family is looking into shuttle bus service.