Wartime Nikkei Students Still Being Sought for Honorary Degrees from Universities, Colleges

The California Nisei College Diploma Project is still looking to identify Nikkei who are eligible to benefit from Assembly Bill 37 (AB 37).

More than 2,500 students of Japanese descent were enrolled at California institutions of higher education in 1942, with the majority being Nisei.

AB 37 became law on Oct. 11, 2009 and required the trustees of the California State University (CSU) and the board of governors of the California Community Colleges (CCC) to grant honorary degrees to all people of Japanese ancestry whose education was interrupted because of their incarceration during World War II.

On July 16, 2009, the University of California (UC) Regents agreed to suspend a 37-year-old moratorium on granting honorary degrees to allow the Nisei to receive degrees from UC.

In December 2009, UC San Francisco, UC Davis and UC Berkeley each held graduation ceremonies in which their honorees finally received their college degrees 67 years after being forced from their studies.

This spring, universities and colleges in the CSU and CCC systems as well as UCLA will hold graduation ceremonies to honor their Nisei honorees. Graduations take place in May and June. UC Berkeley will hold its second ceremony on May 20, and UCSF is prepared to hold another ceremony if more honorees are found.

The project, coordinated by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, offers support to the three California college systems and community organizations in their efforts to honor these former students.

The project was established with a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and in cooperation with Union Bank to provide outreach and education on the Japanese American internment and AB 37.

To inform the project of someone who may be eligible to receive an honorary degree, contact the project coordinator, Aya Ino, at (415) 567-5505 or by e-mail at caniseiproject@jcccnc.org.

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