Nisei Diploma Project

Sharing and Celebrating Stories

December 24, 2009

John Hiroshi Otomo Receives an Honorary Degree from CSU Fresno
Otomo with President Welty
Otomo with President Welty

Today, John Hiroshi Otomo, 87, became the first living recipient of a Nisei honorary degree conferred by the California State University.

"It's an honor," Otomo told Fresno State News. "Having a degree after 67 years is something."

CSU Fresno president John Welty presented the degree to Otomo during a ceremony at the city hall in Selma, Calif., Otomo's hometown.

"Today, we recognize his determination and courage, and the courage of people like Mr. Otomo who overcame their challenges to lead exemplary, inspiring lives," Welty said in his remarks. Watch video of the ceremony.

During spring 1942, Otomo was studying agronomy at CSU Fresno when he and his family were ordered to relocate to the Gila River internment camp in Arizona. He is one of about 80 Fresno students who were interned during World War II.

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September 23, 2009

San Francisco State Alumna Aiko Nishi Uwate is Posthumously Awarded a Honorary Degree
Aiko Nishi Uwate
Aiko Nishi Uwate

The California State University conferred its first honorary Nisei degree to Aiko Nishi Uwate during the September 2009 CSU Board of Trustees meeting.

Uwate's daughter, Vivian Uwate Nelson, accepted the diploma on her late mother's behalf.

After the ceremony, Nelson told Rafu Shimpo News that her mother, who passed away in 1998, would have been thrilled by the honor:

"She remembered [SFSU] fondly; she loved being there."

In 1942, Uwate was studying music at San Francisco State when she was forced to relocate to an internment camp in Arizona.

She later completed her education at Capital University, graduating with a degree in biology in 1946. Two years later, she married Matao Uwate and the young couple settled in Los Angeles where they raised three children. In 1982, Uwate published the book, "Japanese Names for Babies."

Uwate's name is among the 19 former San Francisco State Japanese American students whose names are memorialized at the university's Garden of Remembrance, which was dedicated in 2002.