UC students will finally get their degrees

Students forced into internment camps during World War II
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
-A +A
A decades-long wrong will finally be corrected this year. Among the 110,000 Japanese and American of Japanese ancestry who were removed from the West Coast into internment camps in 1942 were 700 students enrolled at four University of California campuses. Not only were these students forced to leave their homes after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, they also had to abandon their studies, and thus denied the opportunity to earn UC degrees. Last month, the Board of Regents, the university system’s governing body, voted to grant special honorary degrees to this group of students. The action was “urgent, because of the age of our former students,” said Judy K. Sakaki, UC vice president of student affairs. All students whose education was interrupted by Executive Order 9066 qualify for the honorary degrees, Sakaki said. At the time, the UC system had campuses in Berkeley, Davis, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Milton Takahashi, of Loomis, was in his third year of studies in animal husbandry in the College of Agriculture at Davis. From the internment camp near Amache, Col. where he was sent, he joined the Army and was part of the occupation forces in Germany. He later returned to Loomis to work with his family on their farm and in their store, Loomis Mutual Supply. He was surprised to learn he is eligible to get the honorary degree, because he did not finish his schooling. “I don’t think I qualify for that,” said the 89-year-old Loomis native who had hoped to become a veterinarian. Takahashi’s younger brother, Harold, was majoring in soils at the College of Agriculture in Davis when he was forced into an internment camp. After his service in the Counter Intelligence Corps during the war, he finished his schooling at the University of Wisconsin. However, Harold Takahashi isn’t particularly interested in receiving an honorary degree from the university. “If they contact me, that’s okay. But I don’t think I’ll do it from my side,” said the 87-year-old Loomis native, now living in Rocklin. But Sakaki said the Takahashis are exactly the people the university plans to honor. “Our belief and philosophy is, (if it) were it not for the executive order and internment, these were excellent students and would have finished” their schooling, she said. Another Loomis student who earned a degree elsewhere was Nobuko (nee Uratsu) Murai. She had attended junior college in Auburn and Sacramento before studying nursing at the San Francisco Medical Center. Murai said she had been a student at the medical center for a little over a semester when she was sent to an internment camp in Tule Lake. She eventually earned her nursing degree from St. Louis University in Missouri and returned to the Bay Area after graduation to practice nursing in Berkeley. The 89-year-old Oakland resident is ambivalent about receiving an honorary degree from the university. She may contact the university, but “I’m not all that keen” about it, Murai said. Kay Keijiro Kashiwabara, of Penryn, was attending the University of California at San Francisco pharmacy school when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in October 1941, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, according to his brother, Ken, of Penryn. His brother, said Kashiwbara, served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. After the war, he attended the University of Illinois School of Dentistry. Dr. Kashiwabara, born in Whelen, Wash. in 1920 or 1921, was in Truckee planning to attend the Olympics at Squaw Valley when he died in 1960, said Ken Kashiwabara. Honorary degrees will be conferred posthumously, as well, Sakaki said. Family members, friends and others with information about those who might qualify for a degree are encouraged by the university to call (510) 987-0239 or to e-mail University of California records for fall 1941 and spring 1942 show that other students from Loomis included Yutaka Hamamoto, Irene Sumiye Matsumoto, Mitsuko Okusu, Fuji Shigaki, Roy Yokote and Wesley Keichi Sasaki.