First Japanese student graduated from Elon in 1920

Pam Richter – Class of 2011
Dec. 3, 2009

Toshio Soto was the first Japanese student to graduate from Elon. Photo courtesy of Belk Library Archives.

In about one month, I will be boarding a plane to Japan. Not only will this be my first-ever study abroad experience with Elon, it will be my first time traveling out of the country. It is an exciting moment for me, but also for study abroad at Elon, since it is the first time Elon students and faculty will be traveling to Japan for the winter term class – Japan Media and Culture.

Since I am traveling to Japan shortly, I found it interesting to learn that the first Japanese student graduated from Elon in 1920. Her name was Toshio Soto and came to Elon from Kobe, Japan. In 1920, she earned a Bachelor of Philosophy degree, in addition to receiving a diploma in art in 1919, and a certificate in art in 1918.

During her time at Elon, she was a member of the Psiphelian Literary Society (women only), a member of the YWCA Cabinet, President of the YWCA, Secretary of the Senior Class, and President of the Student Council.

Shortly after she graduated, she moved back to Japan and married her husband, who she met at UNC Chapel Hill. The two had four children together.

Soto passed away from a heart attack in October 1968 at the age of 71.

While I am not looking forward to the 14 hour flight to Japan, I couldn’t imagine the travel Soto endured and will think of her experiences during my trip.


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