Neal Henry Lawrence, a Benedictine monk who served in several important posts, including president of the Asiatic Society of Japan and board member of the Harvard Club of Japan, died Wednesday at a hospital in Fujimi, Nagano Prefecture. He was 96.

Born in 1908, Lawrence graduated from Harvard University and joined the U.S. Navy after working for 15 years at Lever Brothers. He became director of the Department of Economic Affairs for the Military Governmental Headquarters of the Ryukyu Islands, now Okinawa Prefecture, from 1946 to 1947.

He then moved on to the U.S. Foreign Service, and was assigned to the diplomatic section of General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers during the postwar Occupation.

He was ordained in 1960 and assigned to Saint Anselm’s Priory and Parish in Tokyo. He taught courses at many universities, including the University of Tokyo, Keio University and Seikei University.

He was also considered a pioneer in popularizing tanka poetry in English.

In 1993, he received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for his contributions in the area of culture.

A memorial mass will be celebrated at Meguro Catholic Church in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, from 6 p.m. on Nov. 17.

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