Alice Hirata leaves lasting legacy for Tiger athletes, engineering students 

Alice Hirata

Alice Hirata

Alice Hirata did not attend University of the Pacific, but she loved the Tigers as her own.  

Hirata was a constant, joyful presence in the Pacific community. She was a fixture at athletic events, especially basketball and volleyball games, and traveled with the teams to many out-of-town contests. Over the years she forged deep connections with players, coaches and families.  

With her husband Henry Hirata ‘64, she endowed two scholarships for student-athletes and supported several Stockton Campus building projects, including the John T. Chambers Technology Center, the Fletcher Jones Foundation Makerspace and the forthcoming Student-Athlete and Sports Medicine Center.  

She died February 19 at her Stockton home at the age of 84.  

"She had an unlimited capacity for kindness and love.” - Rosie Schweizer

Rosie Schweizer ’24, a graduating senior on the women’s basketball team, remembers a woman who wanted to know every student-athlete, and whose laugh, jokes and hugs were plentiful. Hirata, she says, had an amazing memory for small details about students’ lives and was like a fairy godmother—there whenever you needed her.

“She had this way of making you feel loved and special. I called it her superpower,” Schweizer said. “Didn’t matter if you were having a bad day, or you weren’t feeling well, or you had lots of things going on. She’d transcend anything you were going through. She had an unlimited capacity for kindness and love.”

Pacific President Christopher Callahan and his wife, Jean, became close with Alice while attending basketball and volleyball games. The president wrote about Alice after hearing the news of her death.

“I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of Alice Hirata, a dear friend and amazing supporter of University of the Pacific,” he wrote on Facebook. “Spending time with Alice and Henry at a Pacific Athletics event (I can’t remember her ever missing a Pacific Volleyball, Pacific Women's Basketball or Pacific Men's Basketball game) always brightened my day.

“Alice was one of the sweetest and most caring people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Jean and I and the entire Pacific family are sending our thoughts, prayers and love to Alice’s devoted husband & best friend of more than 60 years, Henry Hirata ’64, and the entire Hirata family

Henry and Alice Hirata

Henry and Alice Hirata were married for 62 years.

Alice Hirata grew up in East Sacramento and earned a nursing degree from Sacramento State University. She met Henry Hirata, a graduate of Pacific’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, at a church dance. Both came from farming families, and they bonded over their similar backgrounds. 

To balance their love for athletics with Henry Hirata’s sense of duty to the engineering program, the couple created two scholarships for student-athletes majoring in engineering or computer science disciplines. One scholarship is named for their late daughter, Lori Hirata, who shared her parents’ love for the Tigers.

More recently, they made a generous gift to name the Henry and Alice Hirata Welcome Lounge in the Fletcher Jones Foundation Makerspace. 

“The Hirata Lounge is a perfect place to remember Alice and her impact at Pacific,” said Elizabeth Orwin, dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science. “She was always that—so warm and welcoming to all. She added immeasurably to our family of engineering alumni and friends, and she will be deeply missed.” 

For Schweizer, while Alice Hirata will no longer be visible in the Alex G. Spanos Center, her presence will remain.

“Her spirit is going to endure in our programs and in the ways that we care about each other, play hard, and don’t make any excuses not to show up for one another,” Schweizer said.

She added, “I know Alice is still watching over us, from wherever she is—she's never missed a game.”

Along with Henry Hirata, Alice Hirata is survived by her daughter, Karen Cairel, son-in-law James and grandchildren Jacob and Kaylee. Jacob will graduate from Pacific in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.

A memorial service for Alice Hirata will be held Saturday, March 16 at 11 a.m. at Stockton Buddhist Church.