External Relations


JULY 2010

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Stories of Japanese Americans Who Were Forced Into Camps Will Be Documented


June Junko Kushino holds her own honorary degree and those of her two cousins, Kenji Kushino and Helen Hiroko Kushino at the San Diego State University Nisei Honorary Degree Ceremony. (Photo by JORDAN IKEDA/Rafu Shimpo http://rafu.com/news/2010/05/sdsu-nisei-grad/)

The California State University will begin documenting the stories of Japanese Americans who were awarded special honorary degrees this summer at six CSU campuses.

“The project will be a memorial dedicated to the approximate 250 CSU students who were removed from our campuses in 1941-42 and sent to internment camps," said Colleen Bentley, CSU director of special projects.

The stories will be on video and audio and posted on the website www.calstate.edu/nisei and on CSU campus websites. DVDs will be made and sent to libraries, schools and community centers. The production and dissemination of the stories is funded by a $23,000 grant to the CSU Chancellor's Office from the California State Library through the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. (www.library.ca.gov/grants/cclpep/)

The project honors approximately 120,000 Californians of Japanese ancestry who were impacted by Executive Order 9066, which was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The order forced Japanese Americans out of schools, homes, jobs and into camps after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  It is estimated that about 2,500 Japanese American students were forced to leave California colleges and universities, and at least 250 of them were from CSU campuses in Fresno, Pomona San Diego, San Francisco, San José and San Luis Obispo.

This year, the students were given honorary degrees under legislation (AB 37) authored  by Assembly Member Warren Furutani, which called on the state’s higher education systems to award honorary degrees to these former students. The CSU Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution in September 2009 supporting the measure and designating that the recipients would receive special honorary bachelor of humane letters degrees.

The campuses searched their yearbooks, archives, library records, historical documents and other materials and were able to contact or locate more than half of the 250 former students or their families.

Memorable commencement ceremonies were held at six campuses – Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, San José, San Luis Obispo and Dominguez Hills, the latter serving as the Los Angeles area site for any elderly students who could not travel to their home campuses. Degree recipients were often attired in caps and gowns, with family members standing in for those who were deceased or too ill to travel.

Stories and videos of those ceremonies are at www.calstate.edu/Nisei/commencement. The students now are recognized as alumni of their campuses.

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