Awardee David Semaya holding a trophy with Dean Wilson

Dean Wilson presents David Semaya with a Distinguished Alumni Award

A celebratory mood filled the air at the Tokyo American Club on February 16, 2024, as the Japan campus of Temple University (TUJ) presented a second round of Distinguished Alumni Awards in honor of its accomplished graduates. More than 50 members of the TUJ Community, including alumni and faculty, gathered to celebrate the award recipients. The awardees shared their fond memories of TUJ and described their pathways to success as they received their special awards.

TUJ Dean Matthew Wilson opened the ceremony by welcoming guests and introducing the university’s accomplishments in recent years, including record growth, new degree programs, unprecedented faculty hiring, collaborative efforts and the major expansion into Kyoto that was announced earlier in the month. After the dinner, Dean Wilson presented awards to the six recipients who were selected in recognition of their accomplishments, leadership and commitments to advancing the mission of TUJ and international education.

This year’s awardees were Dr. Wakako Kobayashi (MEd and EdD in TESOL), Christopher Thomas (MBA), Jun Niwa (LLM) and Takaharu Uchiyama (BA).  David Semaya (MEd) and Tomoki Takebayashi (BA), recipients of the inaugural awards, received their trophies during this ceremony as they were unable to attend the previous event.

Upon receiving the award, Semaya, executive chairman at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management, stepped to the podium and recalled the moment he decided to attend Temple’s master’s of education program in TESOL. He reminisced how one professor he met at the time was the key reason for his enrollment at Temple. “What an amazing conduit, amazing face and representative for the program and Temple University,” Semaya said. “They say the people you meet and engage with are the most important in our lives. And oh boy, oh boy, that is the case.”

Semaya reminisced that six months after he enrolled in Temple’s graduate education program, an Ivy League university opened a similar program in Japan, “but I stayed at Temple and I don’t regret it one minute. It was amazing.” His comments were met with a round of applause from the audience.

Takebayashi, the president of Christian Dior in Japan, took the stage to share his remarkable career journey. He reflected on how TUJ had played a pivotal role in shaping his professional trajectory, serving as a catalyst for his unique career progression.

“At Temple, I really learned that where there is a will, anything is possible,” Takebayashi emphasized. “You can take control of your destiny and career. Temple offers remarkable flexibility, allowing students to craft their academic path,” he said, adding that he completed his bachelor’s degree in less than three years. He said his experience provided ample time to reflect on his life and career aspirations.

He continued, “Temple exposed me to a very diverse group of people, including students and faculty. It truly prepared me to adapt to any kind of environment throughout my career. For that, I’m eternally grateful.”


David Semaya, a Temple University Japan alumnus and presently a member of TUJ’s Board of Overseers, holds executive roles in financial services globally. Currently, he is Executive Chairman at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management Co. Ltd. (SMTAM), Japan’s largest asset manager. With a broad expertise in banking, asset management and real estate, David adeptly navigates regulatory complexities. Besides his corporate roles, he actively engages in philanthropy, serving as Commissioner and Treasurer of the Japan U.S. Educational Commission-Fulbright Japan, and a member of JCIE’s Board of Counselors. As a dual US/UK national fluent in Japanese, David brings a valuable global perspective to his diverse engagements, enhancing his contributions to various organizations and initiatives.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from TUJ, Tomoki Takebayashi started at Nikkei QUICK Information, subsequently joining PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2000, contributing to M&A projects. Having passed the US CPA exam in 2002, he joined General Electric in 2003, handling diverse finance functions globally. After obtaining his MBA from INSEAD in 2007, Tomoki transitioned to McKinsey & Company in New York as a financial industry consultant until 2012. Returning to Japan in 2012, he entered the fashion industry at Kate Spade and became CEO of Bottega Veneta in 2015. In 2021, Tomoki assumed his current role as the President of Christian Dior, part of the LVMH group.

Dr. Wakako Kobayashi received a MEd and EdD in TESOL from Temple University, Japan. She is currently a professor at the College of Humanities and Sciences, Nihon University in Tokyo and serves as the Vice Director at the Global Research and Education Center and as the Head of Foreign Language Education Division there. She is also the Head of the Department of General Studies at Nihon University. Her academic interests include the use of VR in language learning, sociocultural theory and COIL implementation. She is well-known as a multiple award-winning poet of the Reizei School in Kyoto.

Takaharu Uchiyama earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from TUJ in 1996. After graduating, Takaharu began his career with Maruyama Manufacturing, rising to Director and Vice-president of Maruyama U.S. by February 2006, later becoming Director and President. Moving back to Japan in 2011, he returned to Maruyama Manufacturing as General Manager and Director, eventually becoming Managing Director in 2018. In October 2020, he was promoted to Representative Director and President. Founded in 1895, Maruyama Manufacturing initially focused on fire extinguisher manufacturing before expanding into agricultural machinery, a sector it continues to prioritize. It is now listed on the Standard Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Christopher Thomas began his career in retail banking during his studies at California State University, East Bay, later transitioning from operations to sales roles at Bank of America. Pursuing an MBA at TUJ, he was selected to participate in an internship opportunity at Merck Group, which evolved into an 11+ year career. Starting as an intern, he rose to become the President of Merck Life Sciences in Japan, while also holding the position of Chief EU BRT Sherpa, fostering collaboration between the EU and Japan. Reflecting on his journey, Christopher attributes much of his success to TUJ, without which none of these achievements would have been conceivable.

Jun Niwa, an accomplished Legal Director with extensive expertise in Dispute Resolution, Corporate Law, M&A, Legal Advice and Commercial Litigation, currently holds the position of Senior Managing Legal Director at Dell Technologies Japan. He has previously served as VP, Corporate Counsel at PGIM Real Estate and held prior roles such as Division Manager at NN Life Insurance and Manager at Tomen Corporation’s International Legal Department. Jun earned an LL.M. from Temple University – James E. Beasley School of Law in 2003, following an LL.B. in Corporate Law from Keio University in 1985. Additionally, he is recognized as an Attorney at Law admitted in New York, U.S.A.

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