On 1 November 2005, the Roche Chair for Interreligious Research at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture (南山 諸宗教研究講座) was officially established by the President and Senate of Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan, and made possible by a generous $1 million (USD) endowment from Robert Roche. “I am thrilled to have an opportunity to support the visiting research fellowship to further the Institute’s mission to promote dialogue among religions, philosophies, and Eastern and Western cultures,” stated Roche.
Roche and his family have a significant, 30-year relationship with the Institute. “There is a deep family connection between my family and the University, so this endowment is particularly meaningful,” he explained. He first attended the University as an undergraduate exchange student in 1983–1984. While there, he met his wife who was also a student there. Roche returned to Nanzan in 1986–1987 as a law student studying abroad and over the years, each of his 3 children have attended Nanzan High School as visiting students.
An American businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Robert Roche is Chairman and President of Roche Enterprises, a company that invests in a broad range of industry sectors with emphasis in the United States, Japan and China markets. For more than 30 years, he has lived and worked in Asia, founding companies and investing in start-ups. In the Asia-Pacific region, Robert Roche’s companies include Oak Lawn Marketing, Inc., Acorn International, Inc., Cachet Hotel Group, and IS Seafood.
A passionate philanthropist, Roche has a strong sense of social responsibility and is committed to numerous educational and cultural initiatives around the world. In addition to endowing the Chair at the Nanzan Institute, he established a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Business Transactions program at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and has given financial support to Washington University, the University of Southern California, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico. He supports the U.S.-China Strong Foundation and Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA), programs that provide innovative educational and cultural experiences to young people. Robert Roche is also a founder of Business Forward, an organization of business leaders that works with government to accelerate the economy.
In addition to his philanthropic commitment, Robert Roche is an engaged civic leader who has made important contributions to strengthening U.S./Asia relations. He served as a member of the Japan Board of Governors for the American Chamber of Commerce and on the Board of Trustees for Center for American Progress. He was one of the founding organizers of the American Business Community Nagoya (ABCN), which later became the Chubu Chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce Japan (ACCJ), and initiated the Nagoya Walkathon and International Charity Festival in 1991. The annual event has grown significantly over the past 30 years, and since its founding has raised more than 8 million yen annually for the benefit of local orphanages and charities. He also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Nagoya International School, and as Chairman of Interworld and Relo Japan.
Roche received a bachelor’s degree in economics and Japanese studies from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, in 1985, and a law degree from The University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 1988. Fluent in Japanese and proficient in Mandarin, Roche and his wife spend their time in Japan, China, and the United States.