About PEAC Institute

PEAC Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity incorporated in New Jersey. PEAC stands for Peace, Education, Art, Communication, and is built on these four pillars. Education, art, and communication are the broad avenues that lead to peace. Through transformative educational projects, we strive to reach the most marginalized youth and use art and communication activities to help them explore and express.
PEAC's Mission:
Education, art, and communication are cornerstones of peace culture. PEAC, a 501(c)(3) public charity, offers young people exciting ways to find and express themselves through in-depth encounters in completely new environments. As they explore the wonders of a world they never imagined, they enter entirely new parts of themselves as well.

Through workshops conducted with partners around the world, PEAC broadens minds, opens hearts, builds self-esteem, and nurtures healthy relationships--for a peaceful, healthy planet.
We see PEAC as a growing collaborative network, much like any living system, where elements continuously fall into place through connection and shared resources. We aim to create an alternative web of experiential learning that spreads across national borders, touching people across cultures and generations, to enable diverse avenues of access to and engagement with issues concerning all of humanity.  So far this has taken the form of facilitated educational workshops given in various relevant locations across the world, and we are in the process of establishing more permanent campuses to host our education seminars, based on the success of our premier Peace Culture Village.

Peace Culture Village (PCV) is a PEAC campus and nonprofit organization in Hiroshima Prefecture. A Japanese nonprofit, international community, organic farm, and experiential peace training camp, PCV hosts PEAC programs where underserved youth from around the world can experience a peace culture lifestyle, reflect on what peace means to them, and learn skills they can bring back to their communities.

The PEAC Board:

Rebecca Irby, Founding Partner & President

RebeccaIrby.jpgRebecca is Founding Partner and President of PEAC Institute. Over the last ten years, Rebecca has served as an education and technology consultant on diversity and cultural awareness initiatives with the NJ Department of Education, Rutgers University, the National Liberty Museum, Nagoya University and many others. Rebecca also sits on an advisory board incorporating social skills training into the core programs of schools around the United States. She recently completed a cross-cultural communications textbook for the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Additionally, she created business English communication curricula for some of the world’s largest organizations, including the Red Cross, Toyota, and Mitsubishi. When not consulting on education initiatives, she works on social documentaries and charity events. She produced and debuted her first film ‘That Day’, the story of a Hiroshima survivor, on August 6, 2013. Her last charity event was in March 2015, when she organized and rode in a 500km bike and run through the areas affected by the tsunami of 2011. 

Steve Leeper, Founding Partner & Vice President 

SteveLeeper.jpgSteve is Founding Partner & Vice President of PEAC Institute. Steve has spent about half of his 69 years in Japan. He has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and has worked as a family counselor (10 years), management consultant (14 years), translator (30 years to present) and peace activist (16 years). He believes, until he encounters facts to the contrary, that he has translated, edited, or interpreted more A-bomb survivor stories than anyone in the world except his wife. He began working for Mayors for Peace in 2002, which led to his appointment in 2007 as chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. He stepped down in 2013 and currently is visiting professor at Hiroshima Jogakuin University and Nagasaki University as well as executive director of PEAC's Hiroshima campus, Peace Culture Village. His publications include Hiroshima Resolution (bilingual), Nihon ga Sekai wo Suku and Amerikajin ga Tsutaeru Hiroshima (Japanese). 

Maurice Elias, Trustee

 MauriceElias.jpgMaurice J. Elias is Professor, Psychology Department, Rutgers University and Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab (www.secdlab.org). He has received the Sanford McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education and the Joseph E. Zins Memorial Senior Scholar Award for Social-Emotional Learning from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Books include Emotionally Intelligent Parenting, The Educator’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement: Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom, Talking Treasure: Stories to Help Build Emotional Intelligence and Resilience in Young Children (www.researchpress.com), Schools of Social-Emotional Competence and Character (www.nprinc.com), The Other Side of the Report Card (how schools and districts can integrate SECD systematically into their ongoing student report cards--Corwin), Urban Dreams: Stories of Hope, Character, and Resilience, and forthcoming, The Joys & Oys of Parenting (Behrman House). He writes a blog on Social-Emotional and Character Development (SECD) at (www.edutopia.org). 

Gary Laurie, Esq., Trustee

GaryLaurie.jpgGary is an attorney located in Clifton, NJ. His practice focuses on business and contract law, corporate governance, intellectual property, and entertainment law. The majority of his clients work in the entertainment industries including film, music, television, print publishing, websites and mobile apps, visual arts, art galleries, graphic design, restaurants and other edible entertainment.
He is a Past Chair and current Board Member of the Entertainment Arts and Sports Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and a member of the American Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. He is a frequent lecturer and teaches courses in contract, business and entertainment law at Montclair State University, as well as Music Business Law at New Jersey City University.

Juliet Sutherland, Trustee

Peace Culture Village Staff:


Steven Leeper, Founder

Steve's profile appears above because he's also a principal of PEAC. He spends approximately seven months each year in the Village and the other five months in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. As a family counselor and management consultant, he focused on the peaceful resolution of conflict. As a consultant, translator and peace activist in Japan, he focused on intercultural communication. Now, at the Village, he is studying how to get along peacefully with nature. Overall, his primary interest is in distinguishing "peace" or "peace culture" from the war culture we live in today. The Peace Culture Village is his way of exploring this distinction physically, economically, and socially.




Mary Popeo, Executive Director

As a student at Boston College, Mary had two opportunities to visit Japan. During her trips, she conducted independent research on Hiroshima, interviewed 25 people familiar with nuclear issues, interned at the World Friendship Center, participated in the World Conference Against A & H Bombs, and helped organize the YMCA's International Youth Peace Seminar. Returning to Boston profoundly influenced, Mary began volunteering with organizations like the American Friends Service Committee and Global Zero. In 2015, she participated in the Japan Council Against A & H Bomb's annual Peace March as an international youth relay marcher, walking from Okayama to Hiroshima to spread awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons. Her dream was to move to Hiroshima, and after hearing about PCV she was determined to live there.


20180613_191339_(1).jpgConnor Morton, Facilities Director

Connor attended the University of Kansas where he studied Applied Behavioral Science with a concentration in Community Health and Development. His interest has always been in child development and nonviolence. While in college, he was able to work with youth in multiple community organizations and has volunteered with the Boy Scouts of American and the Boys and Girls Club in Lawrence, Kansas. After graduating, Connor moved to Boston where he worked as a customer service representative. It wasn't until came to Japan in the summer of 2018 that Connor learned about PCV and decided to visit. He came away from the experience excited to come aboard as a staff member.




Sage Panter, Chief Administrator, Conflict Manager

A recent graduate of Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, Sage completed a Master’s thesis on the subject of cultural memory and the memorialization of mass atrocities. This work was originally inspired by her year-long stay in Hiroshima where she conducted research on hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) testimonies. More recently, Sage expanded her work in an internship with Wings of Hope, a non-profit in Sarajevo, where she participated in inter-cultural peace work for the survivors of the Bosnian war. From contextualizing hibakusha experiences to participating in the 3-day Srebrenica Peace March, Sage is dedicated to making the world a more accepting and peaceful place by bringing attention to the dangers of nuclear weapons and other atrocities still plaguing the world.



Matthew Thome, English Programs Director

Matthew is a Language Arts teacher originally from Cleveland, Ohio with experience teaching in both the U.S and Japan. He double majored in English Education and Asian Studies at Bowling Green State University where he focused on secondary education alongside Japanese language and cultural studies. His interest and background in education and Japanese studies only deepened with a year studying abroad at Nanzan University of Nagoya, as well as participation in the 71st annual Peace Seminar in Hiroshima. Both experiences gave Matt the basis for a thorough understanding of American and Japanese cross-cultural communication and peace education. Matt has two papers published on these subjects respectively, the first available here and the second here. He hopes to build a peaceful future by playing an active role in the education of the people, young and old, that make that future possible.

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