March 09, 2006

Ikeda, Mikva to receive honorary degrees

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A Buddhist leader and a retired federal judge and presidential adviser will receive honorary degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The SIU Board of Trustees today (March 9) voted to award an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Daisaku Ikeda and an honorary doctor of laws degree to Judge Abner J. Mikva.

Ikeda, born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1928 to a family of seaweed farmers, is a Buddhist leader, philosopher, educator, author and poet. In 1960, he became the third president of a lay Buddhist organization known as the Soka Gakkai, and in 1975 he became the first president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). The organization, which has more than 12 million members in 190 countries and territories, promotes peace and individual happiness through activities based on principles of Buddhist philosophy that place the highest emphasis on the dignity of life.

Ikeda is also the founder of several institutions, notably the Soka schools, an educational system from kindergarten through post-graduate university level that operates on a philosophy of value-creating education. Soka University, a top private university in Japan, opened in 1971 and has exchange agreements with more than 50 institutions of higher learning worldwide.

The Soka University of America graduate school opened in 1994 in Calabasas, Calif., and offers a master of arts degree in second and foreign language education. Soka University of America, a four-year liberal arts institution in Aliso Viejo, Calif., graduated its first class of 100 students with bachelor's degrees in 2005.

Ikeda also is the founder of several cultural initiatives. The Min-On Concert Association, founded in 1963, regularly sponsors tours of musical and performing groups and artists throughout the world. In 1983, Ikeda founded the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum as a vehicle for enhancing international understanding through art.

He also is the author of more than 200 books covering philosophy, collections of essays, addresses and poetry, as well as novels and children's literature.

Mikva, a Wisconsin native, earned his law degree from the University of Chicago law school in 1951. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton from 1951 to 1952, then returned to Chicago to practice labor law with Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.

In 1956, Mikva, a Democrat, ran against the famed Democratic machine and won election to the Illinois House. Along with the late Paul Simon, he fought for fair housing and against corruption in the state welfare system, earning the enmity of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Mikva eventually wrote sweeping reforms of the state criminal code and Illinois' mental health facilities.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Mikva for the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia, a seat of judicial power second only to the Supreme Court. Mikva served 16 years on the appeals court, rising to chief judge. He wrote more than 300 opinions.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton asked Mikva to give up his lifetime appointment to the bench and replace Lloyd Cutler as White House counsel.

Mikva is the author of several books, including law school textbooks on the legislative process, and more than 40 law review articles.