William & Mary

All Roads Lead Back Home: Jean Kumiko Takeuchi, M.A. '76

Ms. Takeuchi graduated with a master's degree in Chemistry. This article first appeared in the 2010 President's Report.

takeuchiWhen Jean Kumiko Takeuchi M.A. '76 came to the United States, she had barely enough money to stay for a year. She stayed much longer – earning multiple advanced degrees, becoming an American citizen, and retiring from Eli Lilly & Co. after a 20-year career as a research scientist.

A major influence in her life has been her faith – a faith so strong that it’s led her to pursue another degree – a doctorate in Old Testament theology from Cambridge University in England, where she began attending in fall 2010.

“I became a Christian at William & Mary,” Takeuchi says. “I have learned that God will provide for me, and he has.”

In her native Japan, Takeuchi worked as a chemist. She also took evening courses in conversational English, and her instructor encouraged her to study in the States.

Takeuchi was interested in attending a Southern school based on her English instructor’s experiences in Alabama. She found William & Mary in a book. “When I saw 1693 as the founding year, I thought it was a typo,” she recalls, laughing. “I thought it should be 1963!”

Thinking she might not qualify for an American graduate program, Takeuchi applied as a third-year undergraduate. “When I arrived, they told me I had the credits to be a graduate student, but they were concerned about my English,” she says. “They told me I had to pass two courses: quantitative analysis and physical chemistry – known as the ‘chemistry killer.’” She passed and ultimately earned her master’s in chemistry from the College, as well as a master’s in theology and a doctorate in chemistry at other universities.

Takeuchi retired from her career as a research scientist at Eli Lilly in 2008. “I worked in the very beginning of drug discovery efforts,” she says. “I designed and synthesized new molecules so biologists could test them. A few that I discovered have advanced to human clinical trials.”

When she left Lilly, she knew she had much more to do with her life. “My faith is very important to me,” she says. “I knew I wanted to teach religious courses, but for that I needed a Ph.D.”

For the past year and a half, Takeuchi has studied four more languages – biblical Hebrew and Greek, German and French – requirements to enroll in Cambridge’s doctoral program. After completing the program at Cambridge, Takeuchi wants to teach in Central Europe or Central Asia through the International Institute of Christian Studies, changing the world for others the way her world changed at William & Mary.

When she finally retires, Takeuchi hopes to return “home” – to Virginia. “Maybe I’ll teach at William & Mary,” she muses.