Roy Teshima was one of many Pacific students whose college education was disrupted in 1942 when Japanese-Americans were being interned during World War II. He is among the seven students who will be awarded an honorary degree at Commencement on May 4, 2013.

  • Print
Pacific News

Pacific to Award Honorary Degrees to Japanese-American Students Forced to Leave in 1942

What seven Pacific students started 70 years ago will come to a conclusion May 4 when they receive their degrees from the University during its commencement ceremony.
Apr 12, 2013

The University will confer honorary degrees upon seven students of Japanese-American ancestry who were forced to leave in 1942 as a result of an executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt. Executive Order 9066, which created "exclusion zones" within the U.S., led to the internment of over 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry and to educations—and lives—forever changed.

Many Pacific students, as well as other Japanese-American residents in Stockton, were ordered to report to the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. As former Provost Philip Gilbertson's forthcoming history of the University describes, this was a temporary detention facility where they lived—some sleeping in horse stalls—before being sent to relocation centers, or internment camps, throughout the country.  

In 2009 Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 37 into law, requiring California's public institutions of higher education to extend honorary degrees to individuals whose college educations were interrupted by EO9066. In the past few years, several private universities in California have followed suit, including the University of Southern California in 2012.  President Pamela Eibeck, who nominated the students for honorary degrees, says the University wants to address the grave injustice done to students of Japanese descent who were enrolled in May 1942 and were subsequently unable to continue their education.  

"The University is proud to pay tribute to these important members of the Pacific family," said Eibeck. "It is time we acknowledge and apologize for the discrimination our students suffered more than 70 years ago, and also honor the incredible lives they built despite this obstacle. University of the Pacific is proud to call these students alumni."    

One living student will be presented with an honorary degree during the ceremony. Ida Takagishi Inouye, now 91, was a religious studies major at Pacific who was provided room and board by George Colliver, dean of Religious Education, and his wife at their home near campus. She describes the experience of Japanese-Americans after the Pearl Harbor attack as one of "curfew, traveling restrictions, and much turmoil and unrest."   The Collivers, however, were supportive of her and even offered to help her transfer to Oberlin College, his alma mater. But Inouye's parents wanted her closer to home. Inouye married soon after leaving Pacific and moved to Colorado with her husband, who was one of the first Japanese-Americans hired as a Japanese language instructor for the U.S. Navy. After the war, Inouye and her husband raised a family in Berkeley, where she worked for the Educational Testing Service. Inouye is excited to join the many members of her family with a degree: her four children and six living grandchildren and their spouses all hold college degrees. They also hold seven master's degrees, and are working on completing two more, hold one doctorate and a JD.  

"As you might imagine," Inouye says, "the entire family is rejoicing with me."  

Joyce and Judy Teshima will receive a posthumous honorary degree on behalf of their father, Roy Ichiro Teshima, who was also a religious studies major at Pacific. He died in Seattle in 1997. Teshima was interned at Tule Lake Relocation Camp before working as a Japanese language instructor for Navy officers, as a translator and as a Voice of America broadcaster during the war. After the war, Teshima went with Occupation Forces to Japan, where he spent a 30-year career first with the U.S. Army and then with the U.S. Navy as a translator and mediator between the U.S. military and local communities.  

Joyce Teshima says that her father talked positively about his time at Pacific, even suggesting that his daughters consider attending themselves. But he talked little about his internment. "He was an extremely positive person, someone who looked forward in life and never had any bitterness," Teshima says.   His daughters say that Teshima would have been thrilled to receive his degree. "He was an avid reader who continued going to concerts and lectures and even football games into his 80s," says Judy Teshima. "He always wanted to learn new things."  

Other students receiving posthumous honorary degrees include Toshio Kaneda, of Stockton; Nora Maehara, of Honolulu; Marie Chiyeko Mizutani, of Walnut Grove; Masashi Sugi, of French Camp; and Atsuno Yamaguchi, of Berkeley.    

Learn more about the Japanese American Internment collections at the Holt-Atherton Special Collections in the University Library:  

Tags for this article: