Remarks of Robert W. Conn

Shokumon Award Ceremony 
Remarks of Robert W. Conn
President and CEO, The Kavli Foundation
Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A
Oct. 6, 2020

President Gonokami   President-elect Fujii  honored guests.   

On behalf of The Kavli Foundation, Arigato Gozaimashita!  

Thank you very much for honoring the Kavli Foundation, and myself as the Foundation’s representative, with the "Shokumon Award."  

The story of Shokumon in ancient Chinese history is a great historical one.  It gives us a way of remembering how important it is to honor and respect scholars.  

We at Kavli believe in supporting scholars, in our case, scholars in science, and we know that this will have a positive impact on society. 

The award also honors, for us, the concept of philanthropy  the concept of giving back to support society in honor of the opportunities society itself has provided.  Philanthropy can be from an individual, from a company, or, as in the case of the Kavli Foundation, from a private foundation established by a donor, for us Fred Kavli, to carry out philanthropy.  

At the Kavli Foundation, we took our first step in Japan with you in 2012 when we agreed to provide a significant financial gift to endow the Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, that is, what is now the Kavli IPMU, at the University of Tokyo.  

We saw in the concept you had created with the original IPMU as one focused on excellence in physics, particularly astrophysics and cosmology, and we saw a distinctive approach to creating a global institute, one whose scientists come from Japan, of course, but also from around the globe.  

The Kavli IPMU is a remarkable example of science that knows no borders – it is truly international in scale and scope.  We have learned over the years that cultural and institutional differences are strengths, not weaknesses, and we have learned much from you over the years.

In the past eight years, the University and the Foundation have made even more progress towards additional philanthropic support for the Kavli IPMU.  First, we at Kavli agreed some years ago to provide additional funding, a match if you will, when your Ministry agreed to provide augmented, unrestricted funds for the Kavli IPMU Director to advance science. 

More recently, over the past two years, working with President Gonokami and the leadership teams at both Todai and at Kavli, we have reached a remarkable, ground-breaking, and in some ways culture-changing extension agreement.  This new agreement includes private gift funds from the university and new gift funds from the Kavli Foundation.  It more than doubles the gift resources for the Kavli IPMU in support of science.  And importantly, the agreement is long term – covering several decades.   This will ensure that Todai’s world-renowned Kavli IPMU will be very strong for years to come.  

Let me express a special “thank you” to President Gonokami for his wise and innovative leadership.  It has been very special.  And I wish to thank the Todai team for their leadership and ideas.  It has been a pleasure to work with such creative and thoughtful leaders.  

The Kavli IPMU could not have achieved all it has without extraordinary Directors.  I thank the founding director, Professor Hitoshi Murayama, a remarkable leader and scientist.  And I thank his most able successor, Professor Hirosi Ooguri, one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists.  Without their exceptional leadership, none of what has happened could have happened.

And finally, let me thank your incoming President, Prof. Fujii.  President-elect Fujii has been key to our discussions with the University over these past two years, and we look forward to working with him in the future. 

Andrew Carnegie, one of America's great businessmen and perhaps our most famous philanthropist, said: "Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community."  A paraphrase of this is to say that to create wealth is good and honorable, and that giving back that wealth to society is the noble thing to do. The Gates-Buffett Pledge of 2010 is essentially the same idea, very much in the Carnegie tradition, and in the Fred Kavli tradition.

Once again, on behalf of The Kavli Foundation, thank you for this great honor.