February 26, 2011

Honoring Japanese Americans

Posted in Honorary Degrees, Japanese American Incarceration, Taiko Festival Pictures tagged , , , , , , , at 7:55 pm by minidokapilgrimage


Honoring Japanese Americans

Seattle University to Award Honorary Degrees to Japanese Americans Incarcerated During WWII
By Katherine Hedland Hansen

honorary degrees

Photo Credit: Seattle P-I, MOHAI

Nearly 70 years ago Thomas T. Yamauchi was forced to leave Seattle University and abandon his education as one of 15 Japanese American Seattle University students whose educations were disrupted by their unjust removal and incarceration in 1942 during World War II. To contribute to the healing from this injustice, the Seattle University Board of Trustees will grant Yamauchi and the other students, honorary bachelor degrees at the university’s undergraduate commencement ceremony June 12.

Yamauchi’s widow, Anne, says she’s looking forward to accepting the degree on his behalf. “He was anxious to continue his schooling after camp,” she said. “He was very ambitious.”

Honorees or their relatives have been invited to accept the degrees.Most of the honorary degrees will be awarded posthumously, as the university knows of only one student still living.

“These individuals, who were our students, were required by federal order to leave our community as a result of the fear, racial hatred and hostility that prevailed in the wake of Pearl Harbor,” said President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. “We honor these former students to recognize their courage and sacrifice, to address the injustice that occurred, and with hope that this recognition contributes to the healing process.”

The university announced its plans as the Japanese American community marks its Day of Remembrance, the annual observance of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which began the forced removal of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of whom were native-born citizens of the United States.  Although it might bring back painful memories of a period in American history, the remembrance provides an ongoing reminder of the dangers of prejudice borne of ignorance and fear.

In observance of the Day of Remembrance, the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee, Friends of Minidoka, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington and Seattle University will sponsor the Remembrance Taiko Festival at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20, at Piggott Auditorium on the SU campus.

Lorraine Bannai, a professor at the School of Law and associate director of the law school’s Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, said recognizing the wrong done to these students and presenting the degrees they would have received is an important part of the healing process.

“While these students suffered grievous losses, they endured and survived, and most were able to pick up the broken pieces of their lives and rebuild,” said Bannai, whose own parents were incarcerated during the war.

Tom Yamauchi did indeed rebuild, going on to a successful career with Boeing and the Northrup Corp., and a long marriage with Anne before his death in 1990.

Other honorees identified include:

John Fujiwara, who was never able to complete his college degree but found success as a Boeing photographer for 30 years.

  • Ben Kayji Hara, who volunteered with the Army soon after he was incarcerated, was sent overseas and died in Tokyo in 1945.
  • Shigeko (Iseri) Hirai, who eventually completed her nursing degree before moving to Chewelah, Wash. to farm seed potatoes with her husband.
  • Dr. May (Shiga) Hornback, who moved to Montana to avoid incarceration and went on to earn a Ph.D.  and become a nursing professor at the University of Wisconsin.
  • June (Koto) Sakaguchi, who moved to Colorado to finish her nursing degree and    eventually settled and raised her family in Milwaukie, Wis.
  • Mitsu Shoyama, who went on to receive her nursing degree at St. Boniface Hospital in Manitoba, followed by a successful nursing career in Kamloops, British Columbia
  • Joanne Misako (Oyabe) Watanabe, who was incarcerated at Minidoka, then returned with her husband to Seattle several years later and raised eight children.
  • Find more information on the Remembrance Taiko Festival at: http://sites.google.com/site/dayofremembrancetaikofestival/

    As part of the recognition of its former students, the university is organizing a series of discussions, exhibits and historical programs for the university community and the public. Planning is underway and details will be announced soon.

    The university is also urging Japanese Americans students or their relatives, whose SU educations were disrupted by the wartime exclusion and incarceration orders to contact Junsen Ohno, administrator for the Korematsu Center for Law & Equality, 206-398-4283.

    Announcing Honorary Undergraduate Degree Recipients

    Posted in Honorary Degrees, Japanese American Incarceration, Taiko Festival Pictures tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:51 pm by minidokapilgrimage

    Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

    This week marks the 69th anniversary of a sad and shameful chapter in our nation’s history. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave the United States government authority for the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans.

    Following the bombing on Pearl Harbor, 120,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were ordered from the West Coast and sent to desolate camps. Among the incarcerated were a number of students enrolled here at Seattle University, who through no fault of their own were suddenly removed from their studies. The indignities and injustices they endured can never be undone, but as a university committed to empowering leaders for a just and humane world we are called in a special way to help with the healing process.

    At our undergraduate commencement ceremony on June 12, we will confer honorary bachelor degrees upon these men and women in recognition of the work they did as students and the academic achievements they likely would have realized had they been permitted to continue their studies here. Efforts are now underway to contact the intended recipients or their families. We are very much looking forward to welcoming them back to Seattle University.

    Honoring these men and women further affirms our long and special relationship with the Japanese American community. Before World War II a community of Japanese Americans lived on what is now south campus. Famed sculptor George Tsutakawa’s “Centennial Fountain” sits in the heart of campus. Fujitaro Kubota, a Japanese immigrant who was incarcerated at Camp Minidoka in Idaho, designed nine beautiful gardens on our campus. In April 2006, the university dedicated its Japanese American Remembrance Garden, designed by Fujitaro Kubota’s grandson, Allan Kubota, as a tribute to the community that once thrived here.

    As we prepare to recognize these Japanese American honorees at commencement, the university is also organizing an exhibit, discussions and other educational programs related to the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. On Sunday, Feb. 20, the university is co-sponsoring the Day of Remembrance 2011 Taiko Festival, at 2 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium to observe the signing of Executive Order 9066. The campus community is encouraged to attend.

    I want to thank the committee members who are working on preparations for this year’s honorary degrees: Co-chairs, School of Law Professor Lori Bannai, associate director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and Dale Watanabe, international student advisor at the International Student Center; and the many who are contributing to this project including Casey Corr, director of strategic communications in Marketing Communications; Angelique Davis, assistant professor of political science; Kerry Fitz-Gerald , law school reference librarian; Katherine Hedland Hansen, director of communications in the law school; Jacquelyn Miller, associate provost for faculty affairs; and Kathy Ybarra, assistant to the president.

    As we prepare for this year’s commencement, let us remember what the Japanese Americans of the 1940s went through, the costs of ignorance and prejudice and the importance of moral leadership in confronting social wrongs during times of crisis and conflict.


    Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.

    Office of the President

    901 12th Avenue, Admn 109
    PO Box 222000
    Seattle, WA 98122-1090

    Tel. (206) 296-1891