January 2, 2014 — To celebrate our 60th anniversary, The Asia Foundation is launching the Legacy Society. We hope you will join this special group of people who have chosen to translate their passion for a thriving Asia into a lasting legacy. Below, we highlight one of the inaugural members.
Board member Thomas Rohlen’s interest in Asia came from an unlikely source: on a bet with his college roommates that he couldn’t learn Japanese. This innocuous wager led to a life spent trying to understand Japan and East Asia. The result began with a stint in the Foreign Service followed by an academic career in East Asia, including work on business and industrial organizations, then education, and, finally, the dynamics of East Asian urbanization.
How did you get involved with The Asia Foundation?
I was asked to give a talk at a Board meeting some years ago, and subsequently I followed the Foundation’s work with growing interest. The more I learned the more I came to regard it highly. It does work that gets little publicity, but is remarkably effective and crucial to Asian development across a wide spectrum of needs. Now, as a board member, I realize exactly how smart the Foundation is about how it spends money: we have the right people to work with, the right causes, and we do it in ways that are smart, informed, and successful.
What do you think is the most important work The Asia Foundation does?
The Foundation is unique in that it is able to work on a range of critical issues in ways that are well-targeted and sensitive to local circumstances. Having visited many of the Foundation’s programs in the field, I have seen and been impressed by the concrete results achieved. I also have come to appreciate the Foundation’s genius for making a difference stemming from decades of rich local experience and astute program development.
Why did you choose to include The Asia Foundation in your estate plan?
Finding an organization that does such incredible work and spends its resources so efficiently, it’s important to me that I contribute to its lasting success. I have great respect for and confidence in The Asia Foundation, and I am honored to join its Legacy Society.