Atkinson Student Earns First Luce Scholarship

by University Communications,

Christian Oldham ’14, MBA ’15 is the first student in Willamette's history to be selected as a national Luce Scholar. Oldham is one of 18 fellowship scholars selected to spend a year in Asia, along with a stipend, language training and individualized professional placement.

The Luce Scholar program was launched in 1974, providing an immersive cultural experience to students who have limited exposure to Asia and come from a variety of academic backgrounds.

“Spending a year in a country that I haven’t lived in and meeting new people will create opportunities that I can’t even imagine,” Oldham says.

Oldham wants to study a form of ikebana, a 500-year-old Japanese tradition of flower-arranging that blends minimalist aesthetics and spiritual aspects. He will work with Tokyo-based master Kosen Ohtsubo, who teaches at the Ryusei-ha school and specializes in avant-garde ikebana.

“We’re a little too precious about art objects. We think that they’ll be around forever,” he says. “While I think it’s important to know our history, I think it’s not important to dwell on it. The fascinating thing about ikebana is that you can’t keep it—it dies.”

Oldham credits his success in winning the fellowship to the supportive professors at Willamette, as well as artists and friends in Portland and New York and abroad.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded and supported by a number of sincere, compassionate, thoughtful and giving educators, artists, collaborators and friends. They have all helped in my development as a human being and artist,” he says. “Now I get to put all that development into action.”

For more information on the Luce Scholars Program, visit the Luce Foundation website.