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Auer, founder of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation, has died

Posted by on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in News Story.

James Auer, senior lecturer of Asian studies, emeritus, died May 16, 2024, as a result of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.

man smilingAuer founded the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation at Vanderbilt in 1988, which was an active hub promoting cooperation between the two countries in the areas of economics, national security, and technology for more than 30 years. The center operated until 2021.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1941, Auer grew up in Milwaukee. He graduated from Marquette University and was commissioned in the U.S. Navy in 1963, a path that would lead him to become a policy visionary of U.S.-Japan security relations. Auer spent nearly 18 years in Japan, commanding two ships home-ported there, and was the first U.S. Navy officer to study at the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Staff College.

He also served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a special assistant for Japan. Pentagon senior officials relied on Auer for advice, and he drafted leaders’ speeches and remarks.

Auer obtained his doctoral degree from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

While at Vanderbilt, through his leadership of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation, Auer hosted more than 100 Japanese research fellows who went on to assume important positions in the Japanese civil service, politics, military, and mass media. Auer taught current U.S.-Japan relations in the Department of Asian Studies, as well as the history of sea power.

“James Auer’s course on U.S.-Japan relations was always popular among students and filled early,” said Gerald Figal, chair of the Department of Asian Studies and professor of history and Asian studies. “He was always willing to help students explore career options in that area.”

His activities in U.S.-Japan relations garnered him important recognition from the government of Japan. In December 2008, he received the Japanese government’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, presented in Nashville by the consul general of Japan on behalf of the emperor of Japan. In October 2013, he met with the prime minister of Japan at his official residence in Tokyo and was presented a letter of appreciation for promoting close U.S.-Japan relations for 25 years at Vanderbilt.

In 2016, he was the first non-Japanese citizen to receive the Seiron Taisho (Sound Judgement) award from the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, to which he was a longtime contributor.

Auer is preceded in death by his wife of 46 years, Judith Walker Manning Auer. He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Francis “Frank” Teiichiro (Shanna) Auer, their children, Noah, Sophia, Charlotte, Lydia, daughter and son-in-law, Helen Meeyoung (Nathan) Girard, son and daughter-in-law, Major John Edwin (Kristin) Auer (USMC) and their daughter, Violet.

A private family service will be held. In lieu of flowers, donations may be given in Auer’s memory to any veteran support organization, such as the Vanderbilt University NROTC program or the Semper Fi & America’s Fund.

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