|Ingersoll (far left) during a meeting of Ford's National Security Council, 1974|
It was with heavy hearts this week that we learned of the passing of The Honorable Robert Ingersoll.
In 1972 Mr. Ingersoll became the first businessman to be appointed Ambassador to Japan since World War II. As noted in The New York Times obituary:
The appointment came at a time of strained relations between Washington and Tokyo, primarily over economic issues. Mr. Ingersoll’s company had long had joint ventures and licensing arrangements with major Japanese companies.
With Japan’s economy booming, the primary source of tension was its $3.5 billion trade surplus with the United States. In 1972, after negotiations with Mr. Ingersoll, Japan agreed to import $750 million in American manufactured goods and another $390 million in agricultural products.
Mr. Ingersoll served as chairman of Japan Society from 1978 to 1985. He took the helm following John D. Rockefeller's sudden, tragic death and continued the Society's impressive expansion of the 70s into the 80s.
Under Mr. Ingersoll's watch, the Society implemented the massive multi-arts, coast-to-coast Japan Today series in 1979, established the Japan Society Film Program (under the direction of Peter Grilli), dramatically increased activity and visibility in policy and business programming as Japan became America's most important world partner, and celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1981.
In addition to his invaluable contributions to U.S.-Japan relations as a business leader and diplomat, Mr. Ingersoll is remembered for his lasting participation in Japan Society activities, including support of our 2007-08 centennial. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.