Common ground

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In 1965 students Augi Ahn (P ’95) and Yukihito “Yuki” Hijiya (MA ’67) were two young prospective educators who found themselves far from home at what was to become a new home: Wake Forest.

Augi, from South Korea, was an unclassified student, here on a fellowship taking graduate-level courses in the English department. Yuki, from Japan, had earned a bachelor’s degree there and wanted to study in a country where English was spoken. After a one-year scholarship to Davidson College, he came to Wake on a fellowship, graduating with his master’s degree in English in 1967.

They joined the growing international community on the Reynolda Campus as bright and curious students from different cultures with different native languages, traditions and contrasting political/religious views. And yet somehow, in the shade of the magnolias and within earshot of the Wait Chapel bells, they became fast friends.

They both lived in Efird Hall that first year and there were always tensions between them and their countries, said Augi, but they listened to and respected each other. They ate together in the Pit, shared classes and intellectual conversations, then second year moved into an off-campus apartment in the home of a retired Baptist minister. All the while their mutual admiration for Professor of English Edwin G. Wilson (’43) was growing.

Yuki Hijiya (third from right) with other students from the International Club.

Yuki Hijiya (third from right) with students from the International Club.

Eventually the friends went their separate ways — Yuki to the Ph.D program at New Mexico then to teach at Boise State, Augi to earn two master’s degrees (English and library science) at Appalachian State University followed by a Ph.D at UNC Greensboro — before returning to teach in their respective homelands.

So it was a cheerful reunion when Augi and Yuki, who had communicated but seen each other infrequently over the last 40-plus years, returned to campus for lunch with their mentor, Professor Wilson. They later talked with me about their friendship.

“Politically and religiously we are two opposites,” said Yuki, who retired from the faculty of Kobe College in Nishinomiya and lives in Davidson, N.C., with his South Carolina-born wife, who also taught in Japan. As to what drew him and Augi together, it was either because they were in some way alike, or they were totally different, he said.

Augi retired from the faculty of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and moved to Winston-Salem in 2007 to be closer to his family — a sister and two sons, one of whom, David, is a 1995 Wake alum. “As far as political situations we never agree, even now,” he said. “But as you grow older you are more forgiving.”

When our conversation turned to memories of Wake Forest, both Augi and Yuki smiled. Beautiful campus, sense of family, supportive community, intellectual stimulation, caring teachers, good friends.

And of course, the time they spent learning from Ed Wilson.

'We worship him,' say Augi (left) and Yuki (right), shown here with Dr. Wilson when he was provost.

Augi (left) and Yuki (right), shown here with Dr. Wilson when he was provost.

“There was an eloquence about him; it was magical,” said Yuki, who himself taught Romantic poetry.

Augi credits Wilson with helping him understand English literature and fondly remembers one conversation in particular. “He was getting ready for a budget meeting and there were a lot of people waiting. A person came and told him it was time; he said, ‘OK, I’ll be there.’ And he kept on talking poetry because there was something he needed to teach me.”

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