Four-time Boston Marathoner, Yuji Kishimoto, teaches students more than architecture.
On Thursday afternoons, Yuji Kishimoto, retired architecture professor and avid marathon runner, can be spotted jogging across campus, flanked by six or seven dedicated students who join him on his weekly training runs. For Kishimoto, these Thursday runs are an essential part of his training, as he puts in the necessary miles to build his stamina and endurance.
However, these runs have become much more than training runs. Jogging alongside students calls for a lesson quite different from the traditional lecture — Kishimoto gets a chance to share his love for the outdoors while passing on words of immeasurable wisdom.
“I ran with professor Kishimoto and about five or six other students almost every week this past year,” said Lindsay Yarborough, a recent graduate in the architecture program. “Professor Kishimoto was such an encouragement for me. He motivated me to get out there and give it my all.”
These same students gathered around a computer on an early April morning to track Kishimoto’s progress as he ran the 2011 Boston Marathon — his fourth completion of the course. The students, as well as many other local supporters, had a vested interest in Kishimoto’s progress, as each step toward the finish line marked money raised to support Japanese tsunami victims.
A native of Tokyo, Japan, Kishimoto was overwhelmed by the recent devastation and loss of life in his native country. With assistance from the Rotary Club and other Clemson friends, Kishimoto began fundraising efforts in support of his participation in the Boston Marathon. Through his efforts, Kishimoto raised enough money to provide one month of food, housing and basic needs for more than 40 Japanese people — giving these survivors a means to overcome nearly insurmountable obstacles.
Kishimoto has also had his share of obstacles, especially early on in his running career. In 1969, doctors told Kishimoto that because of a slipped disk he would never run again. In an effort to prove them wrong, Kishimoto ran again and determinedly set a goal to complete 20 marathon races. The end is well within sight — Kishimoto recently finished his 17th race.
As he is nearing the end of his racing goal, Kishimoto’s time in Clemson’s architecture department has come to a close. Having taught at the University since 1980, he retired from teaching at the end of the 2010-11 academic year.
In the classroom, Kishimoto has always pushed what he calls the “3 C’s”: collaboration, common sense and creativity.
“In architecture, one plus one equals three,” Kishimoto said. “When the best people trust each other and are working together collaboratively, one plus one can be so much more than two.”
Kishimoto sees architecture as a conglomeration of diverse people — designers, city planners, investors, developers, religious leaders and others — and he believes that in each situation the group involved will be looking to see how each person fits into the organizational puzzle.
“Each team is assessing how useful you are. Within the first three minutes of a meeting, you must make those you work with trust you,” he said.
Kishimoto strives to emphasize the value of teamwork, teaching his students that working creatively with others is of utmost importance. This collaborative learning has provided his students with many opportunities to have their hands in well-known local projects.
As part of their senior studios, students have played a role in numerous Greenville projects.
“We worked on a exciting mixed-use high-rise project in downtown Greenville, endeavoring to connect the vibrant Main Street district with the BI-LO Center,” said Stephen Parker, a recent graduate. “What I really enjoyed about the project was the freedom to choose whichever medium I desired, from digital to sketching and everything in between, to represent my ideas.”
Working alongside his students in this collaborative, common-sense-driven and creative atmosphere, Kishimoto feels that they have learned so much more than just architecture — they have also learned about life.
While Kishimoto has stepped down from teaching, he will remain at Clemson as special assistant to the president for U.S.-Japan relations. In his new role, Kishimoto will continue serving as an ambassador, strengthening and developing new avenues bridging the Clemson community and the Japanese people.
And there’s no doubt Kishimoto will continue to be a fixture on campus’s rolling hills. Leading his students on jogs, Kishimoto is paving the path for what promises to be a very bright future.
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