California State University Searches For Former Japanese American Students

The following is a press release from the California State University system.

LONG BEACH, CA — Do you know of a Japanese American student who was removed from a California State University campus in 1941-42 and incarcerated in a camp?

Six California State University campuses are searching for 250 Japanese American students who were forcibly removed from CSU campuses during World War II and relocated to prison camps, interrupting their academic careers.

The CSU campuses plan to award these Nisei students Special Honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters degrees as part of the CSU’s Nisei Honorary Degree Project. The CSU project is a result of Assembly Member Warren Furutani’s bill, Assembly Bill 37, which called upon the CSU, University of California and the community colleges to award the degrees.

“By awarding these degrees, the California State University hopes to help heal the wounds of injustice suffered by these Japanese Americans, to honor their academic intentions and to welcome them back to the CSU as alumni,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

A new CSU website, has been launched to help in the search and provide application forms for the Nisei and/or their families. The CSU also has established a dedicated e-mail address, and a dedicated phone number, (562) 951-4723 for people who need additional information.

The six CSU campuses where students attended and that will grant the honorary degrees are: Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo and Pomona (which was a branch of San Luis Obispo during those years). CSU Dominguez Hills is assisting is the search for students, and will host a ceremony at its campus if there are Los Angeles-area Nisei who cannot travel to their former campuses.

In addition, the CSU Chancellor’s Office has formed an Honorary Nisei Committee of prominent Californians who support the CSU’s efforts. They are:

  • Assembly Member Warren Furutani, Author of AB 37
  • James Hirabayashi, Founding curator of the Japanese American National Museum
  • Congressman Mike Honda
  • Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Author of Farewell to Manzanar
  • Helen Kawagoe, Board of Governors, Japanese American National Museum and Carson City Clerk
  • Dale Minami, Attorney who chaired the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Program
  • Norm Mineta, Former Congressman and U.S. Secretary of Transportation
  • Paul Osaki, Executive Director, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
  • Joan Otomo-Corgel, CSU Trustee Emeritus and Fresno State alumna whose father is a Fresno honoree
  • Margaret Iwanaga Penrose, President and Chief Executive Officer, Union of Pan Asian Communities
  • Kevin Starr, California State Librarian Emeritus and Administrator of the CA Civil Liberties Public Education Program
  • Bob H. Suzuki, Former President of Cal Poly Pomona
  • George Takei, Actor and Former Chairman of the Japanese American National Museum
  • Yoshihiro Uchida, Former Olympic and judo coach at SJSU
  • Jan Yanehiro, San Francisco Bay Area broadcast newscaster and host of community-interest programs
  • Akemi Kikumura Yano, Executive Director of the Japanese American National Museum

The new Nisei website also has dates of the campuses’ commencement ceremonies, and links to the people at each of the campuses who are coordinating the efforts there.

The campuses are working with their local Japanese American community organizations to help locate their former students using lists that they have compiled from old registrar’s records, yearbooks, alumni and library records, and other sources. The Chancellor’s Office is also working closely with the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) which has a grant to help the state’s higher educational institutions in locating the former students.

As the former students are located and celebrated at the campus commencement ceremonies, the CSU will post many of their stories on the web site.

Related Stories:
SDSU: A Measure Of Restitution
SDSU: A Wonderful Gesture
California State University Searches For Former Japanese American Students
San Jose State University To Honor Former Japanese American Students
Fresno State: Public Help Sought To Contact Japanese American Alumni
Honorary Degree To Fresno State Alumnus Interned In WW II


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