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Letter from Robert Zagunis, Board President (2019-2022)

Dear Members,

I visit Portland Japanese Garden often. I frequent our magnificent Garden not just in my capacity as a Trustee, but to take advantage of the opportunity for reflection it provides. I have been reflecting a lot lately. This May, my term as Board President will conclude and a lot has happened in the past three years.

Entering 2020, the Garden was moving forward in its evolution. Already internationally recognized for our serene garden spaces, the promise of the future was ripe: our debts on our remarkable Cultural Village had been paid off and our programming and training centers were reaching new heights. And then the pandemic struck.

Typically, Board Presidents serve two-year terms. Faced with the uncertain terrain created by the pandemic, I was asked to remain in this position for an additional year. I am humbled by the trust that was afforded me. I am also honored to be among the stewards who helped the Garden not only navigate this misfortune but continue its growth. When I became President in 2019, I wrote that the Garden’s future would be different from its past, but bright and exciting nonetheless. The sentiment remains.

The organization will thrive in the decades to come because of its most significant strength: people. Countless individuals treated the threat of the pandemic as a clarion call and saved their Garden. This was not the work of just my colleagues on the Board of Trustees, but also our International Advisory Board, Golden Crane Society and Phoenix Legacy donors, generous Portland neighbors, and our world-class staff and volunteers.

Now this tremendous group of people, linked by a common cause, will venture toward an exciting future in the form of the Japan Institute. The Garden has been the bedrock for this organization, its limitations strictly physical. With our new campus, the Japan Institute will take our amazing programming and training and expand it so that we may export the ideals and values of Japanese culture to more people in more places.

Here at the Garden, we say “visit often.” These two words are not a slogan—they are a prescription. Here in the finest Japanese garden outside of Japan, the twin sensations of harmony and peace flourish. A visit to Portland Japanese Garden allows one to recapture tranquility among the din and flurry of our modern lives. In this place of serenity, I look back and feel gratitude. I also look forward and feel optimism.

Here’s to the future,

Robert Zagunis

Portland Japanese Garden Board President, 2019-2022