Renowned Asian American Studies scholar Odo dies

Franklin Odo. file photo

Franklin Odo. file photo

Franklin Odo, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s Founding Director and University of California, Los Angeles Asian American Studies Center co-founder, passed away Sept. 28 at the age of 83, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center said in a statement.

Odo passed away from a battle with cancer, according to the Rafu Shimpo.

Born in Hawai‘i in 1939, Odo received his bachelor of arts and doctorate degrees from Princeton University, along with a master’s degree from Harvard University, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center statement said.

In 1968, Odo began his academic career on the Occidental College faculty while working to complete his dissertation, as he specialized in modern Japan, the UCLA AASC statement said. Odo pivoted from Asian Studies to Asian American Studies when he became the curriculum coordinator at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center in 1970.

Odo’s legacy includes building up Asian and Asian American studies programs across the country, including an Asian and Asian American Studies program at the California State University, Long Beach, and Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, the statement said.

He published many Asian American historical works, including “No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i During World War II” (2003) and “Voices from the Canefields: Folksongs from Japanese immigrant workers in Hawai‘i (2013),” according to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center press release.

Odo was the “first Asian American curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History,” a Facebook post from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in Washington, D.C. said. He “uplifted AAPI history, culture, and arts throughout the institution, and organized several influential exhibitions, including ‘Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon,’ a project that sought to tell the story of Vietnamese American communities after the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam War.”

At the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Odo “helped to diversify the staff, the content of exhibitions, the texts of publications and the attention of its constellation of museums. He paved the way for exhibitions on Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, Pilipino Americans, Japanese in Hawai‘i and others to follow,” the UCLA AASC statement said.

Odo “mentored innumerable students, faculty, and community members; supporting careers, scholarship, and activism for five decades at several institutions, most recently at Amherst College where he served as the John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer in American Studies,” the Smithsonian press release stated.

Odo is survived by his wife, Enid, and three children, the Rafu Shimpo stated.

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