Our New Executive Director

Mr. Yoshiki Tanigawa, President of the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue, recently announced a staff leadership change to take effect on January 1, 2021. Mr. Tanigawa said the board of the Ikeda Center has appointed Kevin Maher, the Center’s current Program Director, as the next Executive Director. Virginia Benson, who has served as Executive Director for 19 of the Center’s 27 years, will become Senior Executive Advisor, continuing to work on a part-time basis for the Center. 

Reflecting on his promotion and time at the Ikeda Center, Maher shared, “I am deeply honored and humbled to have been asked to serve as the Center’s next Executive Director. I am extremely grateful to Center founder Daisaku Ikeda and the Board of Directors for this wonderful opportunity and for their continuous support. Over the last 18 years, I have had the incredible chance to take on a variety of roles at the Ikeda Center. During that time, I’ve especially treasured the experience of working together closely with Ginny Benson. Her passionate dedication to the Center’s work and mission has been a source of constant inspiration to me. In addition, Ginny’s warm approach to openhearted dialogue as well as her tireless seeking spirit, are critical factors in the Center’s progress thus far. On behalf of the entire staff, I want to share my deepest appreciation to Ginny for her tremendous work over the last 27 years. I look forward to continuing to work together in this next phase in the Center’s history. In my new role, I am determined to give my all to further advance the Center’s mission with similar commitment, passion, and joy.”    

Said Benson, “Serving twice as Executive Director of the Ikeda Center has been the greatest honor of my life. I want to thank the founder, the Board, and the entire Ikeda Center team for the support they have shown me over the years. The Board made a great choice in Kevin Maher as next Executive Director. He has proven skills and experience, intelligence, and teambuilding capacity. Having served energetically and ably for almost two decades in increasingly responsible positions at the Center, Kevin knows every facet of the Center’s workings and will make a seamless transition happen. In fact, during the past three years as the Center embarked on a new direction, Kevin became virtually a partner to me, ensuring the Center’s success every step of the way through his hard work and leadership. I have great confidence in Kevin Maher’s ability to lead and inspire the next chapter in the Ikeda Center’s transformation and growth.”

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda founded the Ikeda Center under its former name of the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century in September 1993 when he visited Boston to give his second lecture at Harvard University, entitled “Mahayana Buddhism and 21st Century Civilization.” The Center’s core mission since then has been to build cultures of peace through learning and dialogue inspired by the Buddhist humanism Mr. Ikeda outlined in this lecture. During the 27 years since the Center’s inception, its programs have responded to changing times but its mission has remained the same.

Since 2017, the Center’s staff, working with its President, its Board, and its Executive Advisor, Jason Goulah, have pursued promising new directions that have extended the intergenerational reach of its networking and deepened the engagement of both scholars and youth with the extensive writings of Daisaku Ikeda. A renewed multi-author book program has led to the successful publication in 2018 of Peacebuilding through Dialogue in collaboration with George Mason University Press. Coming next is a timely exploration of transformative ideas by leading educators working in various fields, Hope and Joy in Education: Engaging Daisaku Ikeda across Curriculum and Context, to be published with Teachers College Press in the Spring of 2021.

Among its other recent activities, in 2017 the Center launched a popular youth-led gathering called Dialogue Nights, inspired by Mr. Ikeda’s vision of peace. This series has engendered hope-filled dialogue and friendships among local university students and young professionals. After the COVID-19 outbreak forced the cancellation of all in-person events beginning in March of this year, the Center has conducted a series of virtual dialogue panels on timely themes, now attracting a large international audience.

In addition, the Center continues to develop its existing programs, including the Education Fellows Program—now well established in its 13th year. This program aims to advance scholarship in the field of Ikeda/Soka studies in education through support of dissertation research by promising doctoral students. At the same time, the Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue invites scholars from diverse disciplines to explore key themes in Mr. Ikeda’s philosophy viewed through the lens of their own experience.

With dynamic energy, fresh ideas, and the next generation of leaders at the forefront, the Center is looking toward its 30th anniversary in 2023, enacting the poetic spirit of its founding motto from Daisaku Ikeda: “Be the heart of a network of global citizens. Be a bridge for dialogue between civilizations. Be a beacon lighting the way to a century of life.”      

December 7, 2020


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