Kristi Yamaguchi

Honorary Degrees

California State University, East Bay

Kristi Yamaguchi is an Olympic athlete, philanthropist and educator who embodies professional achievement and personal excellence. Ms. Yamaguchi grew up in Fremont, California, and is best known as an Olympic gold medalist in ice skating. Born with club feet, she began ice skating at six years old to improve her strength and coordination. Her determination and discipline led her to become the first Asian American woman to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, and established her as a role model to other Asian American athletes.

During Ms. Yamaguchi’s professional career, she won several skating awards: the 1992 Olympic Gold Medal for Ladies Singles; World Championships for Ladies Singles in 1991 and 1992; World Junior Championships for Ladies Singles in 1988; U.S. National Champion Ladies Singles in 1989 and 1990; and Pairs Figure Skating World Junior Championships in 1987 and 1988. In 2005, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. She is also a member of the World Skating Hall of Fame, and the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. 

In 1996, Ms. Yamaguchi created the Always Dream Foundation for children. With a focus on early childhood literacy, the foundation has helped more than 10,000 children learn to read. In 2020, the Always Reading program partnered with 32 kindergarten classrooms across California, Hawaii and Arizona to serve more than 500 families. With libraries closed and students struggling with online learning during the pandemic, the program provided access to technology, created literacy-rich home environments and empowered parents and caregivers to support their child’s learning.

Ms. Yamaguchi has written several children’s books, including the award-winning Dream Big, Little Pig, which reached number two on the New York Times bestseller list. Locally, for 25 years, she has sponsored outdoor holiday skating rinks across the Bay Area, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the Always Dream Foundation.  

In recognition of her exceptional athletic career, commitment to education and improving the lives of others, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, East Bay are proud to confer upon Kristi Yamaguchi the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.