In Memoriam: Betty Borden

Japan Society notes with sadness the loss of Betty Borden, our dear and long-time colleague and an important voice in the U.S.-Japan space, on February 23, 2023.

During her 23 years at Japan Society, among other things, Betty oversaw and directed the Innovator’s Network, which was launched as a Centennial project to provide opportunities for leaders and innovators from the U.S. and Japan to come together, share knowledge and insight, and catalyze positive social change. Her thoughtfulness and warmth were matched by her professionalism, hard work, and commitment to a cause much bigger than herself.

Through the Innovator’s Network, Betty created exchange programs from scratch that resulted in tangible outcomes in a range of topics from community revitalization to post-disaster crisis management. Betty shone when it came to identifying, engaging, and working with changemakers.  She initiated partnerships and professional relationships with a vast network of people and organizations all over Japan and the United States, taking leaders from Japan to Louisiana, West Virginia, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, and many other locations as part of the exchange programs. One of the last projects she worked on at Japan Society was an exchange program between rural leaders in the U.S. and Japan that resulted in the book Kuni: A Japanese Vision and Practice for Urban-Rural Reconnection.

Just as significantly, Betty managed the dispersal of the Society’s $14 million Japan Earthquake Relief Fund over the years, using her insight and connections from an Innovators project on post-disaster management to advocate for long-term support in the recovery process. Her singular voice had a profound impact on how the fund was used to support the recovery of Tohoku after 3.11. So many people have reason to be grateful for her work on their behalf.

We extend our sympathies to Betty’s immediate family, including her husband Jon, and her daughter Sophie.

Japan Society Fellows Reunion on May 20, 2016. Front row, left to right: Betty Borden, Director, Innovators Network, Japan Society; Clifford Chanin, Vice President for Education and Public Programs, National September 11 Memorial & Museum; David Shenk, writer; Susan Dentzer, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Network for Excellence in Health Innovation; Margaret McKeown, Circuit Judge, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; Donna Shalala, President, The Clinton Foundation; Phoebe Eaton, writer; Peter Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy & Faculty Director, Center on Poverty and Inequality, Georgetown University Law Center; Ruri Kawashima, Tokyo Representative, Japan Society; and Motoatsu Sakurai, President, Japan Society. Back row, left to right: Jay Parker, Distinguished Professor and Department Chair, College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University; Karen DeWitt, Executive Communications Manager/Presidential Speechwriter, American Bar Association; Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution & Contributing Editor, National Journal and The Atlantic; Hirohito Ohno, Senior Staff Writer, Asahi Shimbun; Vicki Saporta, President & C EO, National Abortion Federation; Charles Lane, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post; Walter Shapiro, Columnist, Roll Call, Lecturer, Political Science, Yale University, and Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School o f Law; Gregg Suhler, Founder, Dynamic Predictables; Alice Tepper Marlin, Founder & President Emerita, Social Accountability International; Robert Boynton, Assistant Professor & Director, Literary Reportage, NYU School of Journalism; Miriam Horn, Special Projects, Environmental Defense Fund; Mary Lassen, Managing Director, Center for Community Change; Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director, California Corporate Partnerships, Environmental Defense Fund; and Rosanne Haggerty, President & CEO, Community Solutions. Photo © Daphne Youree
Rural leaders meet with the residents of Nakanomata at the Salon for the Elderly in Joetsu, Niigata, as part of the exchange program Resilient and Vibrant Rural Communities in Japan and the U.S., October 2018. Photo © Japan Society/Fumiko Miyamoto