March 11, 2011
Dr. Leslie Kawamura, Professor of Religious Studies and Holder of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies, passed away on March 10, 2011. A member of the Department of Religious Studies for 35 years, Kawamura was instrumental in promoting the study of Asian cultures and fostering an interest in Asia within the University and Calgary communities. His research and tireless teaching in Religious Studies have distinguished the Department as one of the country's leading programs in Asian religions, attracting students from all over the world.
Born in Raymond, Alberta, Kawamura served as a Buddhist minister in southern Alberta before embarking on an academic career. He earned his B.A. from San Francisco State University in 1958, his M.A. in Buddhist History from Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan in 1961, another M.A. in Buddhist Philosophy from Kyoto University in 1964, and his Ph.D. in Far Eastern Studies from the University of Saskatchewan in 1976. Beyond establishing the strength of the Department of Religious Studies in Asian religions, Kawamura founded the Asian Studies Group in 1989, a group that he chaired since its inception and which continues to promote discussion among those at the University engaged in research in the area. In the area of program development, he played a key role in the establishment of the South Asian Studies and East Asian Studies minors, as well as the B.A. program in East Asian Studies.
One of Kawamura's most significant contributions to the promotion of Asian Studies at the U of C is the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religious Studies. His fundraising efforts established the Chair and he played an essential role in developing the prestige of the chair and in coordinating its operation from 1988 to the present time. In 2008, he was appointed the first tenured Numata Chairholder.A specialist in Yogācāra Buddhism, Kawamura published ten books and numerous book chapters and journal articles. He delivered many presentations and public lectures on Buddhism in various venues around the world.Among his many awards and honours, Kawamura received the President's Award for Internationalization in 2004 and was awarded the Order of the University of Calgary in 2010.He leaves his wife Toyo, daughter Nao, son-in-law Peter Khu, and two grandsons, Albert and Carlin.
Friends are invited to meet the family and pay respects on Sunday, March 13, 2011 from 7 to 8 p.m. at McInnis and Holloway Funeral Homes, Park Memorial Chapel, 5008 Elbow Dr. S.W., Calgary, Alberta. The funeral service will be held Monday, March 14, 2011 at 2 p.m. at the same location.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Leslie Kawamura Graduate Scholarship in Buddhist Studies. See the Department of Religious Studies website http://rels.ucalgary.ca/ for more information.