The ‘Letters’ Advisory Board

The members of our Advisory Board work closely and with each other to ensure that ‘Letters’ sales proceeds and donations have the greatest, positive impact on Japanese earthquake and tsunami survivors – and that all funding decisions are made as objectively as possible.

Takushi KanekoTakushi Kaneko, PhDwas born in Hagi, Japan, grew up in Hiroshima, then came to the USA as part of a student exchange program.Takushi obtained his BS degree from the University of Missouri and his MS and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan – then became a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Chemistry Department at Harvard University.

In addition to a long and successful career as a drug discovery scientist, first with Bristol-Myers Squibb, then Pfizer Global Research – Takushi also served as a faculty member in the Chemistry Department at Texas A&M University, and has authored over 120 publications and patents. His expertise as a medicinal chemist spans over 30 years in infectious diseases, oncology, and natural products.

Takushi is Senior Research Project Leader at TB Alliance’s New York City headquarters, a non-profit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of new drugs for tuberculosis – second only to HIV as the leading infectious killer of adults worldwide.

Apart from his work, Takushi’s passions include his family, church, travel and growing tropical flowers. He lives in Connecticut.

Takushi brings extraordinary and valuable perspective to The ‘Letters’ Advisory Board.

Anne Thomas‘Letters’ Author, Anne Thomas teaches English at Miyagi Women’s University, as well as private classes in Sendai Japan, her home of 22 years. Originally from Maryland, Anne received a BA in Art and a Masters in Education in her native USA, and her Certification to Teach English as a Foreign Language from International House, London (please also see About The Author for more detail).Prior to settling in Japan, Anne traveled extensively throughout virtually every continent and corner of the globe for 15 years, during which she taught for extended periods in Spain, Morocco and Indonesia.

However and apart from her extensive teaching and travel experiences, it is her commitment to local volunteerism and hands-on involvement in post earthquake and tsunami Japan, that give Anne unique insights as to how proceeds from sales of ‘Letters’ and the donations it inspires can best assist survivors.

Anne works closely with local and regional charities, including Sendai Yomawari Group, a recognized and well established non profit charity that tirelessly serves the homeless, as it has for decades – a population that in post-earthquake and tsunami Japan, is now exploding.

Imai Seiji SenseiImai Seiji Sensei is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Sendai, Japan’s homeless – work that is central to the ‘Letters’ mission.Among his many callings, Imai is a Baptist minister who realized the social action dimension of his faith while studying at seminary school in Germany. Upon returning home several years ago, he was moved to help alleviate Japan’s growing problem of homelessness. He founded Sendai Yomawari Group, a non profit organization (NPO) to serve the homeless. Yomawari means literally, ‘wandering around at night’ – a practice through which Imai and his army of dedicated volunteers seek out, assist, and have come to know many of the less fortunate whom they serve on a first-name basis.

Now that the homeless population is exploding in post-earthquake/tsunami Japan; Yomawari’s role has become increasingly critical to their survival. In addition to providing meals several times weekly, clothing, shoes, weekly showers and small treasures to comfort the homeless, Yomawari has gained the respect and cooperation of others. Together, they are helping to make small, modest apartments available to a lucky few.

As if this weren’t already a full life and career, Imai is the father of 5 children, and an Associate
Professor at Shokei Gakuin University. He also serves as Pastor of Sendai South Baptist Church, a post he has held since 2002. Imai holds a BA in German Studies from Tokyo University, a Bachelors of Theology from Seinan Gakuin University, and his MA in Classical Philology (the structure and historical development of languages) – also from Tokyo University.

Susan Brown BlackSue Brown Black serves as Advisory Board liaison to the effort’s host non profit organization (NPO), Block Island Ecumenical Ministries (BIEM) Inc.

Even before ‘Letters’ was finished and available online, “SueB” was proactive on behalf of its mission. Through her efforts, over $3500 has been raised from the Block Island, RI community, alone, to benefit Japanese earthquake and tsunami survivors. Additionally, SueB inspired local, Block Island junior & senior high school students to initiate a cultural exchange with the author’s adult English students, in Japan.

SueB is Director of the Block Island Early Learning Center, licensed as an early educator and provisional teacher in the states of New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and active in real estate.

A long time resident of Block Island, she holds an M Ed from Vermont College and a BA in Psychology from New England College – the latter including studies abroad in the UK.

Married to U.S. Merchant Mariner, Capt. William Black of Maersk Lines, SueB is the mother of two adult children and an active volunteer with The Nature Conservancy, Block Island Maritime Institute, The Youth Cultural Diversity Program for St. Ann’s by the Sea; and Exchange Program Coordinator for Block Island School and inner city schools – among several other initiatives.

Brian PenryBrian Penry edited and wrote the Foreword for Letters from the Ground to the Heart – Beauty Amid Destruction, as well as art directing and designing its cover and text. Since 1972, Brian has worked as a designer/illustrator, writer and innovator with a wide range of educational, arts & entertainment and other types of non profit organizations and brands.

Recently, his projects have included two non profit initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa: Among Women South Africa (AWSA), and Prevail Fund Africa – the latter of which creates educational opportunities for young people from impoverished backgrounds in Kenya. Along with books donated by Room-to-Read, the fundraising website Brian created for AWSA facilitated construction of three multi-lingual reading rooms in South African Townships.

Other clients of Brian’s have included Carmen Sandiego, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Bonnier Group, Sesame Street, Sony, Viacom, Carnegie Hall, The Bolshoi (Moscow), Mount Sinai Medical Center (NYC), Kravis Children’s Hospital, and Special Olympics International (SOI) among many others.

A native of California, he lives and works in Guilford, Connecticut (see also About the Editor).

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