2011 grad gives back to Penn State through major gift

Weeks after receiving his master's degree in geosciences from Penn State, Hiroshi Hamasaki decided to thank Hiroshi Ohmoto, his adviser and professor of geochemistry, with a $100,000 gift to establish the Geosciences Research Fund in Honor of Hiroshi Ohmoto in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Hamasaki, a native of Japan, said the gift reflects his appreciation for the support and mentoring he experienced during his three years of study with Ohmoto. It also speaks to what Hamasaki described as the strengths of Penn State -- the sense of community among students, dedication of faculty and world-class research.

"Penn State changed my life -- I learned not just academics but also gained a broader perspective,” said Hamasaki, who graduated in December 2011. “I’m proud to be a Penn State alumnus, and the easiest way to show my appreciation was with this donation.”

William Easterling, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, applauded Hamasaki’s generosity, calling it a “selfless gesture.”

“We are truly thankful for Hiroshi’s commitment,” Easterling said. “It is very unusual that you find a new graduate who wants to give back at this level."

Hamasaki, who grew up in the shadow of one of Japan’s two space centers, said he has always been interested in extraterrestrial life. He pursued that interest at Kyushu University in Japan where he earned an undergraduate degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences.

After meeting Ohmoto in Philadelphia, Hamasaki was determined to study astrobiology and only applied to Penn State. Awarded a graduate assistantship, he came in fall 2008 and began research into the processes responsible for the formation of sulfide minerals in deep time, the focus of his master’s thesis.

While Hamasaki credited Ohmoto with teaching him the skills and attitudes needed to be a good scientist, Ohmoto credited Hamasaki’s success to his work ethic.

“Hiroshi is a hard-working and sincere student,” Ohmoto said. “He has a positive attitude and enjoys helping others.”

The desire to help others was a prime motivation behind his gift, said Hamasaki, who initially had budgeted the money for further graduate study.

“From my childhood, I’ve wanted to do something for others,” said the 29-year-old, whose gift will support research in the Department of Geosciences. “By donating, someone else will be helped.”

In April, Hamasaki will begin saving for graduate school again, as he will start working for Tokyo Gas.

Hamasaki sees a possible return to Penn State in his future. Since the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, Japan has shifted from nuclear power to natural gas as the main energy course. Among Hamasaki’s responsibilities for Tokyo Gas will be purchasing natural gas from foreign countries, including the United States.

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Last Updated June 01, 2012