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California State University Searches
for former Japanese American Students

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(March 8, 2010) –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 email 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 website.


About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 433,000 students and 44,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 90,000 annually. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California.

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