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Bright cultural exchange rises from the darkness of tragedy

Posted at 3:48 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 15:49:38-04

ASHLAND, Va. -- Ten years ago, a tragedy took the life of a Chesterfield woman on the other side of the world.

The 2011 Japan tsunami claimed the lives of more than 22,000 people.

Randolph-Macon College alum Taylor Anderson was among the dead. But out of the tragedy, a relationship was formed.

"She'd been teaching English there for three years prior to the disaster," Randolph Macon professor Dr. Lauren Bell said. "Randolph Macon became very engaged in honoring her legacy through a cultural exchange."

That cultural exchange came thanks to support from the Taylor Anderson memorial fund, the Mellon Foundation, the U.S. Japan Council's Tomodachi Fund, and the japan foundation's center for global partnerships.

"We made the decision to dedicate those grants to helping get more students to Japan and to get more of our faculty connected to Japan," Bell said.

Good news for Japanese language students like Lauryn McMeans who's following in Taylor's footsteps.

Lauryn developed an interest in Japan at an early age through movies.

"I was like 'wow! This is beautiful. I need to know more about this culture.'" she recalled.

In the 10 years since Taylor's death, Randolph Macon has sent nearly 200 students and 28 faculty members to Japan for study and research.

"As a result of all this interest among faculty and students, we have a Japanese studies minor which we never had before," Bell said. "One of a very small number of colleges, certainly on the East Coast, that has a Japanese studies language minor."

There's a Japanese saying, "The greatest gift of life is friendship."

Those who knew Taylor might tell you she'd be happy knowing the friendship between students in Virginia and Japan is Building Better Minds.

Building Better Minds with Rob Cardwell airs every Wednesday at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on CBS 6 and is sponsored by Virginia Family Dentistry.

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