School navigation

Lewis & Clark College salutes star alumni

February 12, 2001

Lewis & Clark celebrated its finest during the Alumni Honors Banquet on Nov. 9 at the Benson Hotel in Portland.

The College honored Donald C. Johnson ’70, J.D. ’74 as Distinguished Alumnus and Hideo Nagura ’88 as the 2000 Outstanding Young Alumnus. R. Michael Kasperzak, Jr., ’76 and Paul C. Jorgensen ’85 received the Donald G. Balmer Citation for outstanding voluntary service to the College. James E. Emerson ’81, president of Roberts Enterprise Development Fund, was the keynote speaker.

Distinguished Alumnus Award Donald C. Johnson ’70, J.D. ’74

Donald C. Johnson’s life reads like an adventure novel, with Harrison Ford starring in the movie version.

Jamie Forman ’81, board of alumni president, outlined the facts.

Johnson majored in political science and Spanish while at Lewis & Clark. He intended to pursue a legal career but became intrigued by international affairs while studying international law and foreign policy with Professor Carlin Capper-Johnson. On a whim, Johnson took the foreign service examination—and passed. He entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1974 and was immediately dispatched to Guatemala for two years. He learned Russian and was dispatched to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He then learned Chinese and moved to the embassy in Beijing.

Twenty-six years later, he is still dedicated to foreign affairs and the work of the U.S. Foreign Service.

He has served in Europe, Latin America and Asia and has also worked on the National Security Council staff at the White House. While in Honduras, he received the State Department’s Superior Honor Award for helping defend the U.S. Embassy against mob attack. From 1993 to 1996, he served as U.S. ambassador to Mongolia, a country undergoing profound political and economic change. After serving in Mongolia, he headed an international mission in Moldova.

In 1997, Johnson accepted an urgent assignment to become the U.S. representative on a three-member international commission that was charged with creating plans and procedures for the voluntary “decommissioning” of weapons held by Ireland’s paramilitary groups. He was team leader for the first voluntary decommissioning of weapons in Northern Ireland in December 1998.

Upon accepting the award, Johnson gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look (excerpted below) at “the scarier parts, as well as a lot of the adventure, like…

“Climbing an active volcano in Guatemala with my son, Steve, in a backpack and then having to run down the mountain when the volcano erupted 50 yards from us;

“Having my home wrecked by a 1976 earthquake in Guatemala that killed some 20,000 people;

“Living in an apartment in Moscow that was wired and regularly searched by the KGB;

“Meeting the courageous Yelena Georgevna Bonner, wife of Andrei Sakharov;

“Being manhandled by the KGB heavies when, as an embassy human rights officer in Moscow, I attempted to attend the trial of a Soviet dissident;

“Helicoptering at treetop level in Central America to visit Nicaraguan contras and to do my part to support and explain the twists and turns of American policy to armed peasants;

“Being one of the first humans in a thousand years to visit the tomb of El Escribano in Copan, Honduras;

“Having my car burned by a mob in Tegucigalpa and having to fight a fire in the burning embassy annex with only a couple of colleagues beside me;

“Running out of gas in the air while traveling in a Soviet-era helicopter over a very remote part of Mongolia; or

“Sitting in a car in Northern Ireland with two other unarmed colleagues in December 1998, waiting for a phone call to a secret rendezvous to pick up paramilitary weapons, ammunition and explosives.

“For those who are U.S. taxpayers, I sincerely hope you feel that you have gotten your money’s worth,” Johnson quipped.

He thanked Donald Balmer, U. G. Dubach Professor of Political Science; Lloyd Hulse, professor emeritus of Spanish; James Holton, professor emeritus of political science and archivist; Ronald Lansing, professor of law; Bill Williamson, professor of law; the late Carlin Capper-Johnson, professor of international affairs; and Jack Cairns ’54, professor of law.

“But I also want to acknowledge a deeper debt to people I don’t know and probably will never know: to those who have helped build Lewis & Clark over nearly six generations, to the family that donated that fantastic Palatine Hill Road estate and the College leadership that developed it, and, finally, to the unknown members of the scholarship committee of 1966-67 who made it financially possible for me to attend Lewis & Clark.”

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award
Hideo Nagura ’88

Forman described Hideo Nagura as “a rising star in the field of international banking and finance.”

Nagura majored in international affairs and chaired the International Affairs Symposium. Today, he is an investment banker in the Corporate Advisory Division of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, one of the world’s largest banks.

He has played a major role in the success of many of Japan’s major corporate restructuring projects. The Ryobi project was one of Japan’s 10 largest transactions. Nagura also acted as financial adviser to the French hotel giant Accor, the world’s largest hotel operator, in the acquisition of Hotel Sofitel Tokyo. The deal marked the first purchase of a major hotel in Tokyo by a foreign company.

Nagura serves on the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi’s nine-member corporate advisory team for large-scale mergers and acquisitions, in cooperation with Lehman Brothers.

“While I have been fortunate with both my career and family, as a member of the Japanese business community, I feel that my greatest challenges remain ahead,” Nagura said, upon accepting the award.

“During the Samurai period, Japan shut itself away from the world for almost 300 years,” he said. “Then one day in 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry shook the bay of Shimoda with sounds of cannon fire, stirring panic in the hearts of the Japanese and alerting my country to the coming of its future in the greater world. Whether through foresight or opportunism, the Meiji reformers bravely seized the chance to learn from the West, to embrace change and to build the basis for modernized Japan.

“Today, the world’s economic community is once again calling for Japan to change. At this critical turning point, the country strongly needs personalities with global, but national, minds who can determine what we need to learn from the West and what we need to preserve as our own culture.

“With this as the backdrop, I find myself in an exciting position to participate in the tremendous changes happening in the Japanese economy. As a manager of the investment banking division of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, I have been able to participate in the Western-style corporate restructuring now beginning in Japan.

“The education and experiences I gained from Lewis & Clark have been essential in preparing me to meet these challenges and have enabled me to take what I learned here in the United States and to adapt it to the Japanese system. I expect that Japan will be reborn, just as it was in the post-World War II period.

“Our shared expedition in the 21st century is to seek peaceful coexistence between the best that is both global and uniquely national. With Lewis & Clark’s fine alumni throughout the world, I am more confident that we will meet these challenges successfully,” Nagura concluded, thanking the College and his wife, Akiko.

Donald G. Balmer Citation
R. Michael Kasperzak, Jr., ’76

Mike Kasperzak has served Lewis & Clark since his graduation in 1976. As a member of the board of alumni since 1995 and as president from 1998 to 2000, he has been instrumental in strengthening alumni programming, in initiating student involvement and in leading by example.

Over the years, Kasperzak has helped foster strong alumni ties in the San Francisco Bay area. His annual clam bake has become a Lewis & Clark alumni tradition.

“The event took on almost mythical proportions when the alumni staff vied for the right to travel to the event,” noted Michael Mooney, president of Lewis & College, who introduced Kasperzak.

He has assisted the Office of Admissions by serving as an alumni coordinator for enrollment. He supported the work of annual giving by issuing a matching-gift challenge, and he played a role in reunion planning by suggesting a model for committee structure that has become the alumni office’s standard. He is continuing his commitment to the future of Lewis & Clark by serving on the College’s Residence Life Task Force.

Kasperzak, a former attorney, founded Dispute Resolutions Specialists in 1993 and is a professional mediator and public speaker on mediation and dispute resolution.

He is a city council member for Mountain View, Calif., and has served on the City of Mountain ViewParks and Recreation Commission and on the Environmental Planning Commission. He serves as a national chair of chapter network support for the American Red Cross.

Donald G. Balmer Citation
Paul C. Jorgensen ’85

Paul Jorgensen has been an active member of the Lewis & Clark community since his college days. After graduating in 1985, he attended Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C. Since then, he has carved out a niche as a successful attorney and star alumnus.

For more than a decade, Jorgensen has served as the primary contact for Washington, D.C., alumni, helping organize events and activities for visiting Lewis & Clark representatives. In 1990, when the College adopted a national vision for its alumni efforts, Jorgensen was instrumental in helping make the transition. He was a founding member of the board of alumni, drafting its bylaws and serving as parliamentarian.

His board service ended in 1996, but his involvement with the College has continued. Since 1990, he has been a stable and constant resource for the College’s off-campus program in Washington, D.C. His involvement has grown from a guest lecturer and tour guide to a course instructor and program director.

Jorgensen volunteers for Boy Scouts of America and Habitat for Humanity and participates in the Washington, D.C., AIDS Ride.

Share this story on

The Chronicle Magazine

Contact Us