In 1942, xenophobic U.S. officials enacted policies that resulted in the internment of over 100,000 Japanese American citizens. 42 Japanese American students at Oregon State University were forced to leave the university and sent to internment camps. Most did not ever return to OSU. On Sunday, June 15th, OSU awarded honorary degrees to every Japanese American student who was unable to complete their degree.
via the OSU Admissions Blog
The campus will recognize the former students and present degrees to 22 of them or to family members. More than half of those who are to receive the degrees have since died.
“I thought it was kind of a raw deal,” said former student Noboru Endow in a statement to the Gazette Times.
Endow, who is now 85 and lives in Santa Clara, Calif., was a sophomore at OSU when he received a letter from the government telling him to leave school and board a bus for Portland.
“I didn’t think there was that much danger. I felt like an American. I was an American. I am an American. So I didn’t feel it was right. But I wanted to cooperate with the authorities,” he told the Gazette Times.
Two OSU students, Andy Kiyuna and Joel Fischer, spearheaded the idea. The two lobbied Reps. Brian Clem of Salem, an OSU alumnus, and Tina Kotek of Portland, who co-sponsored the bill that Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed in May 2007.
“A great wrong was done to them and it is never too late to do the right thing,” said OSU President Ed Ray said in a news release.
Only about Japanese American students returned to OSU to graduate following World War II.
On Feb. 19, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that rounded up 120,000 Japanese Americans as part of a forced relocation of those citizens to internment camps. About 3,500 Japanese Americans were living in Oregon as the time.
via Nichi Bei Times