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The finish line

May 18, 2009

The finish line

The call came from Japan as Masahide Nishimura was finishing up his degree in Chinese Studies at Pacific Lutheran University a decade ago. His grandfather, Jisaburo Nishimura, 92, had had a stroke.

Masahide felt he needed to come home and support his grandfather, who had raised him, and help with the family business – Kobe Toyopet Corp. – which distributes Lexus, Toyota and Volkswagen cars. This was a company started by his grandfather some 50 years earlier.

“I tried to go back forth a few times in 1998, but in the end I stayed to help with the business,” he said last week. “I really couldn’t concentrate on my classes.”

And time passed. Masahide Nishimura finally rose to the level of CEO and COO. At his father’s suggestion, Nishimura decided it was time to finish his degree, 10 years later.

Lasts week, as seniors packed story boards, and went over their power point presentations and handouts one more time, Nishimura, 40, flew in from Kobe, Japan last Tuesday, and presented his capstone on the Chinese automobile market and the struggle by Toyota dealers to enter and engage that market.

After the presentation, Nishimura reflected on his career, the family business and the decision to come back and finish what he started.

“This was always on my mind,” said the thoughtful Nishimura. “It was a dream,” he said of his wish to finish his bachelor’s degree.

At first, Nishimura had planned on pursing a business or economics degree when he arrived at PLU in 1996. But after working on English classes and getting a sense of PLU’s mission of reaching out to the world and understanding other cultures: he switched to Chinese Studies.

“PLU stresses leadership and teamwork, and looking at other cultures,” he said. “That is why it’s so special to me.”

And that played a part in his decision to return. That, and a little nudge from dad.

It was Nishimura’s father, Taichi Nishimura, now chairman of the company, who encouraged his son to go back and finish.

“He told me that now that I was president, I had more control over my time,” he said.

So Nishimura finished up his presentation last Wednesday. Next fall, he will wrap up one last class in Japan, and then the degree will be completed.