US-Japan Foundation Honors Dr. Kurt A. Gitter
New York, NY – April 2014
Dr. Kurt A. Gitter was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the United States–Japan Foundation in Washington, DC, on April 3, 2014.
The United States–Japan Foundation established its Distinguished Service Award in 2005 to honor American and Japanese individuals for their lifetime commitment to promoting friendship and understanding between the peoples of the United States and Japan. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees selects award recipients and often makes a grant of approximately $10,000 to a US or Japanese not-for-profit organization in honor of the award recipient. This year, the grant was given to Dr. Gitter’s alma mater, John Hopkins University, for its program in East Asian Studies.
Prior recipients of the award include: Ambassador Thomas S. Foley, US Ambassador to Japan 1997–2001 (2005); Ambassador Yoshio Okawara, Japan’s Ambassador to the US 1980–88 (2007); Mr. Tadashi Yamamoto, JCIE, President and Founder 1970–2012 (2008);Ambassador Walter F. Mondale, US Ambassador to Japan 1993–96, Vice President of the United States 1977–81 (2008); Honorable Yasuhiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan 1982–87 (2009); Honorable Robin Chandler Duke, Former Ambassador to Norway, Co-Founder of the US-Japan Foundation (2010); Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, Honorary Chairman, Toyota Motor Corporation (2010); Mr. Minoru “Ben” Makihara, Senior Corporate Advisor and Former Chairman, Mitsubishi Corporation (2011); Dr. Ezra F. Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Emeritus, Harvard University (2012).
The award, presented by Dr. Alexandra Munroe, acknowledged Dr. Gitter for his passionate championing of Japanese art of the Edo period (early 17th –mid nineteenth century) and for his extraordinary contributions to American appreciation of Japanese culture by facilitating exhibitions, publications, and scholarly research through his Japanese art collection. Significantly, where all prior awards have been made to major political or business figures, Dr. Gitter is the first recipient of the award to be recognized in the field of the arts.
A prominent ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon, Dr. Gitter has practiced in New Orleans and is a clinical professor at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine as well as Tulane University. He is also widely recognized as a major collector of Japanese art, and has been a member of the board of directors of the New Orleans Museum of Art for the past three decades, and he has also served on the boards of Johns Hopkins University, the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art at the Smithsonian Institution, and the visiting committee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
He and his wife, Alice Yelen Gitter, founded the Gitter-Yelen Foundation in 1997 for the study and preservation of Japanese art and American self-taught art. More than one hundred scholars from around the world, both burgeoning and established specialists, have visited the Gitter-Yelen Study Center to conduct first-hand research on paintings, sculpture, and ceramics in the collection.
The Gitter-Yelen collection of Japanese art has been exhibited in numerous American museums as well as in Japan and Australia, and will travel to Israel in Summer 2014.
Dr. Gitter receives the Distinguished Service Award from Foundation Chairman James W. Lintott and Trustee Alexandra Munroe.
Dr. Gitter with Dr. George R. Packard, President of the United States-Japan Foundation, at the award dinner in Washington, DC.