Family and colleagues honor Hiro Watanabe

Whenever Hiro Watanabe ’82 was asked, “How did you end up at Marlboro College?” he would launch into a yarn using short, clipped sentences in English, his second language: “Well, it was raining. And I did not have an umbrella. When someone offered to share an umbrella, we started talking. And I learned of Marlboro College, in a tiny town in Vermont, USA. Wherever that was. So, I came over. And, if it had not been raining that day…” He would end his story there, grinning and always a little mysterious. 

If it had not been raining that day, there almost certainly wouldn’t be a new endowed scholarship in Hiro’s name at Marlboro College, benefiting future generations of students in the visual arts. Hiro died from a very aggressive cancer in August 2016, and his colleague Susumu Suzuki chose to redirect life insurance proceeds that he received into the new scholarship. Deeply moved by Susumu’s generosity, Hiro’s family also chose to donate their life insurance proceeds to Marlboro College.

Hiro brought an enormous sense of cultural diversity to the Marlboro campus, at a time when most students had never met someone born in Japan. His field of study was the visual arts, specifically the Pop Art movement, and he was an avid photographer and painter, but he is perhaps remembered most for his warm, infectious smile.

After graduating, Hiro moved to New York City where he worked in advertising and the financial industry. He was employed by Lehman Brothers, Nomura Research, and others, often in marketing roles where he was well-suited to entertain visiting Japanese client executives. As his financial skills developed, his career evolved to the translation of U.S. financial news and industry trends into Japanese for the firms Solution Services and Aite Group.

Even amid the hubbub of Hiro’s promising career, cut much too short, Marlboro College was clearly still an institution he loved, and one where he made many life-long friends. It is very fitting that he is remembered with the Hiro Watanabe Scholarship, which will be awarded each year to a junior or senior who demonstrates a passion for the visual arts, and the Marlboro community is grateful for that rainy day he heard about the college in the tiny town in Vermont, USA.


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