Setsuko Ono | PhD 1972

Painter and Sculptor

setsuko-ono.pngSetsuko Ono left Tokyo in 1963 with a Bachelor in English literature to come to the Institute with a dream of contributing to Japan’s efforts for World Peace. She completed a degree in International Relations and then a PhD in Political Science in 1972. After her studies she went on to pursue a 28-year career holding high-ranking positions at the World Bank until 2003 when she decided to dedicate herself to her artwork. She remembers well the stimulating courses of history and international law. But her experience was also enriching for other reasons.

“The most pleasant moments were those spent with other students sharing lunches, coffees, trips to the mountains, trips organised by the Institute to East Germany, Romania, and the Middle East. At the Institute, I was fascinated and affected by the beauty of the world’s different cultures and the horror of civil wars, racial discrimination, and colonial politics”, Setsuko said.

"While the Institute’s international environment and teaching prepared me well for my career, the personal experiences
I had there proved to be invaluable."

In 1970 when Setsuko was working on her PhD thesis A Western Image of Japan, Piero Gleijeses, a classmate in her license programme from 1964 to 1966 returned from the United States to finish his dissertation. He shared her large office in a building where she and five other doctoral students were working. “All of us would go out to lunch at the ICRC, WHO or UN headquarters and we would run together in the forest on weekends”, she said. “Later Piero started to tell me everyday about the courage of the Dominican rebels while writing and that was the beginning.” Setsuko married Piero Gleijeses, now Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, in 1974 in Italy and later moved to Washington D.C. where she began her career at the World Bank. Her last position was Senior Adviser in the Operations and Country Services Department.

From 1984 to 2002 in her free time at night and weekends, she studied art in Washington D.C., and became a painter and a sculptor, starting to exhibit only after 2003. Currently, her work can be found in public squares, parks, buildings in Havana, Baltimore, and Tokyo. Most recently, in April 2012, one of her sculptures was installed on the grounds of Hara Arc Museum of Contemporary Art. She has written a book about her career at the World Bank in 2005 entitled A Woman Flying Alone in the World: Twenty-Eight Years of Experience at the World Bank and has authored articles on development. She was also a lecturer on development issues at Sophia University in Tokyo for fifteen years until 2010.