Faculty Profile: Ted Tsukahara

Narratives in the Numbers

Ted Tsukahara.

When Integral tutor and economist Ted Tsukahara reads The Wall Street Journal’s daily stock tables, he sees a veritable soap opera in the downturns or upticks of companies like Intel or Exxon Mobil.

“I’ve learned to let the numbers tell you the story that created them,” says Tsukahara, a faculty member since 1992.

Tsukahara’s fluency in the language of mathematics dates back to his days as a business major and economics minor in SMC’s Class of 1962. Even his first on-campus job — as a freshman sportswriter covering the Gaels’ 1959 NCAA tournament-bound basketball team — helped him discern meaning from statistics.

“Sports reporters look beyond the won-loss record to see what’s creating it,” says Tsukahara, a regular at men’s and women’s basketball games in McKeon Pavilion with his wife, Victoria Fujita. “What looks like a great season might not be when you analyze the data.”

As Tsukahara’s approach to sports suggests, attention to numbers is more than an academic interest — it’s a way of life. It’s been his passport to an economics doctorate from Claremont Graduate University, a professorship at Pomona College and a career in corporate strategic planning and finance.

Tsukahara’s willingness to pursue opportunities in different professional environments has entailed some risks. In 1976, he left a secure position in academia for the vicissitudes of the petroleum industry and investment banking. Sixteen years later, he and Victoria uprooted again when he took a job teaching in SMC’s Executive MBA Program.

“Basically, I’m a gambler,” he says.

For the past four years, Tsukahara has directed the Integral Program and guided students through the works of Euclid, Descartes and Newton. He appreciates the Socratic Method of inquiry, where students and teachers must establish the basis of their arguments.

“I don’t consider myself a classic academic — I’m not an expert in anything,” he says. “I’ve tried to be open to the surprise of different points of view.”

Colleagues praise Tsukahara for his open-mindedness and ability to bring together students and professors from disparate academic disciplines.

“Ted is astute and careful and makes students think on their feet,” says Mike Riley, a classical languages professor. “His style is almost never agitating, and his leadership is very effective that way.”

Tsukahara also chairs the John F. Henning Institute, the College’s center for the study of Catholic social thought. One of his main initiatives has been the Episcopal Lecture Series, which brings bishops to campus to discuss Catholic issues.
“It’s a side of Ted many don’t see,” says Brother Donald Mansir. “In addition to being a wonderful economics professor and administrator, he’s profoundly concerned with the Catholicity of the College.”