At Long Last: Japanese American WWII-era OSU Students Receive Honorary Degrees

June 16th, 2008

Former Oregon State University students were recipients of Honorary Degrees for the university’s 139th commencement ceremony. So a little history here: after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States Executive Order 9066 in was signed in the spring of 1942 and over 120,000 ethnic Japanese people were uprooted and were held in internment campus for the duration of the war. This affected the lives of 42 Japanese American Oregon State University students as they were forced to leave campus, most of whom never returned and were unable to complete their degree.

Now, six decades later and after the work of current Oregon State University students, faculty and staff, the affected students were invited back to campus to receive their honorary degrees. I was in attendance at the events scheduled for the degree recipients and it was very emotional and powerful day as you’ll see form the video posted below. I was able to meet with Jack Yoshihara, who was a member of the Beaver Football team. When Jack was on the team, the Beavers competed in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day in 1942. This was a few weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Jack wasn’t allowed to travel to the game — the government considered him a security risk and his travel radius was limited to 35 miles. Also, large public gatherings on the West coast were prohibited and the 1942 Rose Bowl was moved from Pasadena, California, to Durham, North Carolina. Despite not being able to participate, Jack proudly bragged about how his team defeated the heavily-favored Duke University 20-16 and showed off his championship ring. You’ll see him at one point in the video sporting his Rose Bowl varsity jacket.

At long last, Jack and others received their honorary degrees on Sunday along with the current OSU graduating class of 2008. President Ed Ray stated “It is a great privilege for all of us at Oregon State University to honor our former students with their degrees. A great wrong was done to them and it is never too late to do the right thing. More importantly, we should use the memory of this sad and unconscionable chapter of our history to strengthen our resolve to stand up for each and every member of our community when we are tested, as we surely will be in the future.â€?

Those honored were: Noboru Endow, Raymond Hashitani*, Roy R. Hashitani*, Shigeru Hongo*, Kate Iwasaki*, Masao Kinoshita*, Kay Kiyokawa, Sigeo Kiyokawa*, Taro Miura, Kay Nakagiri, Tom Namba*, Jack Nomi, Todd Tadao Okita*, Lena Kageyama Omari*, Tommy Ouchida, Carl Somekawa, Aiko Sumoge*, Mabel Sadako Takashima*, Masao Tamiyasu*, Edward Ko Yada*, Mary Takao Yoshida, Jack Yoshihara, and Robert Yoshitomi. (*deceased, represented by family)

The video is about ten minutes, but worth the watch. You’ll see the honorees, current members of the Japanese American Student Association and several faculty and staff on the video. I wanted to get this up as quickly as possible, and I’ll add some interviews with students and speakers at the receptions as soon as I can edit them.

*Music: “Winding Road” by Bonnie Sommerville


9 responses to “At Long Last: Japanese American WWII-era OSU Students Receive Honorary Degrees”

  1. Jzetter says:

    I think it’s wonderful that OSU is honoring the Japanese students who lost their education opportunities during the war.


  2. […] an earlier blog post (At Long Last: Japanese American WWII-era OSU Students Receive Honorary Degrees), I promised some footage of current OSU students who played active roles in the Japanese American […]

  3. Al says:

    For anyone who is interested there is an amazing documentary called Passing Poston. It is the tale of four former internees at the Poston Relocation camp during WW II. The film is a heart wrenching story, of the search to forgive a nation that turned its back to so many of its own citizens.

    Its a must see! Its showing at the Pioneer Theater on August 8th till the 14th.

  4. What a turn to a sad story. With WWII and the pain the the local Japanese people went through it is the least that can be done to acknowledge them.

  5. […] a follow up to the Honorary Degrees that OSU awarded to Japanese Americans who had been uprooted from the university and interned […]

  6. […] commencement to receive their honorary degrees. You may remember previous postings on this in the “At Long Last” […]

  7. Cake Bonus says:

    Very interesting story! I’m really interested how can they use their knowledge and skill in todays world, almost everything have changed. But hey, who cares, they deserved it and I’m glad that Oregon State University didn’t forget their students.

    Great video , really looking forward to see some more materials (interviews with students and speakers).

  8. Fish says:

    That’s a very inspiring story. And very generious from Oregon State University. This is a great example on how universtiys should care about their students, even if some of they are 60 years old.

    I can only image how happy those fellas were getting their degree at the age of 60-70. Wow it took them 40 years to graduate and they did it! 🙂

    Nice story.

  9. […] OSU blogs also have information pertaining to the 2008 honorary degrees: the Admissions Office’s blog and the OSU Spotlight […]

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