Uri (Satow) Matsuda was enjoying her nursing program at what was then Seattle College when she was abruptly forced to leave school and report for internment in the spring of 1942. She was on the last bus to the Puyallup Assembly Center and was then incarcerated at the Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho.
“They called it evacuation, but really you were scheduled to leave,” said Matsuda, 87, from a lounge at Seattle Keiro Nursing Home. “What they called camp was actually prison.”
Nearly 70 years later, she and other Japanese American students whose educations were unjustly interrupted received honorary degrees from Seattle University on June 12 during commencement ceremonies.
“These individuals, who were our students, were required by federal order to leave our community as a result of the fear, racial hatred and hostility that prevailed in the wake of Pearl Harbor,” said SU President Stephen Sundborg said. “We honor these former students to recognize their courage and sacrifice, to address the injustice that occurred, and with hope that this recognition contributes to the healing process.”
Professor Lori Bannai, associate director of SU’s Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at the School of Law, said recognizing the wrong done to these students and presenting the degrees they would have received is important.
“While these students suffered grievous losses, they endured and survived, and most were able to pick up the broken pieces of their lives and rebuild,” said Bannai, whose own parents were incarcerated during the war and who was one of the attorneys who represented Fred Korematsu in successfully reopening his case in 1983.
Matsuda said she appreciates the university’s recognition of what she and many others went through. It’s good to talk about her experiences now, but she says it took her years to open up about her incarceration.
“When you’re young, you have all these ideas and dreams that you could do anything,” she said. “It’s hard to live with it.”
Honorees identified included:
• John Fujiwara, who was never able to complete his college degree but found success as a Boeing photographer for 30 years.
• Ben Kayji Hara, who volunteered with the Army soon after he was incarcerated, was sent overseas and died in Tokyo in 1945.
• Shigeko (Iseri) Hirai, who eventually completed her nursing degree before moving to Chewelah, Wash. to farm seed potatoes with her husband.
• Dr. May (Shiga) Hornback, who moved to Montana to avoid incarceration and went on to earn a Ph.D. and become a nursing professor at the University of Wisconsin.
• Collette (Yoshiko) Kawaguchi, who was incarcerated at Minidoka and lived many years in Chicago before returning to Seattle, where she lives today.
• Lillia Uri (Satow) Matsuda, who was incarcerated at Minidoka but eventually completed her nursing degree in Peoria, Ill., and worked as nurse for many years there and in Seattle.
• June (Koto) Sakaguchi, who moved to Colorado to finish her nursing degree and eventually settled and raised her family in Milwaukee, Wis.
• Mitsu Shoyama, who went on to receive her nursing degree at St. Boniface Hospital in Manitoba, followed by a successful nursing career in Kamloops, British Columbia.
• Caroline (Kondo) Taniguchi, who continued her nursing education in Colorado and worked at several hospitals in Chicago as a medical records specialist. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
• Madeleine (Iwata) Uyehara, who continued her nursing education in Colorado and worked at a blood bank before settling down to marry and raise her son in Milwaukee, Wis.
• Joanne Misako (Oyabe) Watanabe, who was incarcerated at Minidoka, then returned with her husband to Seattle several years later and raised eight children.
• Tom Yamauchi, who went onto a successful career with Boeing and the Northrup Corp.
Read more at www.seattleu.edu/commencement.