San Diego is known for being a competitive city in many categories. We compete with the rest of the world in biotech, medical research, semiconductor design, wireless communication, diversity, natural beauty and, finally, in Major League Baseball.
San Diego is also a collaborative city.
For the past 22 years, it has celebrated the Kyoto Prize with a symposium that is experienced in just two other places in the world — Kyoto, Japan, and Oxford, England. The symposium is a celebration of achievement in basic science, advanced technology, arts and philosophy, and it brings to our city experts in those areas from around the world. When it comes to San Diego on March 14-17, the collaborative nature of this city will be clear.
Each year, local businesses and educational institutions collaborate on bringing the latest three laureates to town for a series of lectures, demonstrations and recitals. This year’s laureates are Carver Mead, a professor emeritus from the California Institute of Technology who has advanced semiconductor and computing technologies; Bryan Grenfell, a population biologist and pandemic researcher from Princeton University; and Zakir Hussain, a world-renowned musician who performs on India’s classical percussion instrument, the tabla.
Each laureate embodies the philosophy of the Kyoto Prize founder, the late Kazuo Inamori, whose foundation has funded the prize since its inception in 1984. Inamori, who founded Kyocera and located its North American headquarters in San Diego, wanted the prize to reflect his belief that “the future of humanity can be assured only when there is a balance between scientific development and the enrichment of the human spirit.” That spirit involves its own measure of collaboration.
Inamori also funded the Inamori Pavilion Building at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park in 2015, one of the many ways the cities of Kyoto and San Diego are in partnership.
When the Kyoto Prize Symposium arrives next week, it will also illustrate collaboration between educational institutions. UC San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University will be the sites for the events, as they have been for the past two decades.
But perhaps the most significant collaboration is the one that involves young people on both sides of the border. Each year, three students from San Diego and three students from Tijuana are awarded college scholarships for their research and artistic endeavors, along with their school achievements and community service. In the years since San Diego first hosted the symposium, more than $4.3 million in funding has been awarded locally for educational opportunities like these scholarships and the laureate presentations.
The Kyoto Prize Symposium is a rare tangible example of how business, science, technology, philosophy, the arts, educational institutions, government and nations can see the value in something that can improve our lives and enrich the human spirit.
The Kyoto Prize is one of the most prestigious prizes in the world. San Diego’s own Sydney Brenner and Walter Munk are former laureates. Ten laureates, including Brenner, have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.
Having the Kyoto Prize Symposium in San Diego gives our city the recognition it deserves for being a leader in science, technology and the arts. In recent years, we have heard from such luminaries as philosopher Martha Craven Nussbaum, computer genius Alan Kay, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, choreographer Pina Bausch and artist William Kentridge. We’ve also heard from researchers who developed stem cells from skin cells, biologists who developed tissue regeneration technologies, and on and on.
When the laureates arrive in San Diego next week, they will be hosted by science, technology, engineering and mathematics students at Point Loma Nazarene University, and they will give lectures and presentations at UC San Diego. The public is invited to these presentations with no admission fee, thanks to a grant from the Inamori Foundation. Please visit kyotoprize-us.org to register.
The same website includes details on a March 15 gala at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel, where the Kyoto Prize laureates will be honored and the high school scholarship winners will discuss their projects. The gala charges a $350 admission fee to help fund scholarships.
There are plenty of things that pull us apart as a society. But collaboration is what unites us and moves us forward. The Kyoto Prize Symposium is a rare tangible example of how business, science, technology, philosophy, the arts, educational institutions, government and nations can see the value in something that, as Inamori said, can improve our lives and enrich the human spirit.
Please join us in recognizing the achievements of these student scholars and laureates and celebrating the collaboration of so many sectors of our community.
Malin Burnham is a local business leader and philanthropist who launched the Burnham Center for Community Advancement in San Diego at the new UC San Diego Park & Market campus in Downtown. He lives in Point Loma.
Dean Nelson, Ph.D., is an author and founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, and founder and host of the annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. He is a Kyoto Journalism fellow and lives in Tierrasanta.
This story was originally published in The San Diego Union-Tribune. It has been adapted for our platform with permission and can be read in its entirety here.