Seventy years after the forced internment of Japanese-American citizens and Japanese nationals during World War II interrupted their studies, USC’s Nisei (a term used to describe second-generation Japanese Americans) were awarded honorary degrees at a special reception following Commencement today.
USC Alumni Association CEO Scott M. Mory welcomed the Nisei Trojans, their families, and university and alumni leaders to the reception in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
Calling them “an inspiration to the Class of 2012 and all members of the Trojan Family,” Mory praised the Nisei Trojans for “embodying those supreme Trojan virtues of courage, faithfulness and loyalty.”
Sustained applause and cheers greeted the Nisei Trojans as they received their honorary diplomas from USC president C. L. Max Nikias. In addition to conferring honorary baccalaureate and master’s degrees to these former students, President Nikias presented honorary alumni certificates to representatives of four deceased Nisei Trojans.
Mory also recognized special guest George Kakehashi ’42, a Nisei Trojan whose U.S. military service had prevented him from walking at his Commencement.
Among the attendees was another Nisei Trojan military veteran, 93-year-old Fred Tanaka, whose wife, Satsuyo, was one of the Nisei receiving honorary diplomas. Although Tanaka returned to USC after the war on the G.I. Bill, he had not been on campus since the late 1940s.
Conversely, honorary master’s degree recipient Ryo Munekata has continued to visit campus for more than five decades. An avid fan of USC football, Munekata has been coming to USC football games for 55 consecutive years. Being recognized by the university evoked memories of his “classmates back in 1941 who could not be here today. I wish they could be here to enjoy it.”