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Japanese Americans Given Honorary Degrees Six Decades Later


Japanese Americans who were denied a college education at San Diego State more than 60 years ago received honorary degrees Monday. It's part of a statewide initiative to make amends to these former students.

— Carl Yoshimine walks slowly down an aisle during a special ceremony at San Diego State.

He's dressed in a black cap and gown. Bright purple flowers hang over his head.

Yoshimine, 82, was a business and economics student at SDSU in 1942. But his college dreams were cut short after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That's when Yoshimine and other Japanese American students were forced into American internment camps.

“I turned to religion and faith and that seemed to settle things,” Yoshimine recalled. “From that point I was able to forgive, not to forget, but to forgive and to move on.”

Yoshimine is one of a few surviving members from that 1942 class.

San Diego State University officials are now making amends more than six decades later. They awarded honorary degrees to more than 20 Japanese Americans. Many family members received the award on behalf of their parents who passed away.

Barbara Mukai's mother Viola Takeda passed away just a month ago. Muaki says her mother internalized a lot of the emotional pain from her time in an internment camp. She also didn't share much about her broken college dreams.

“I knew she went for a little bit, I wasn't even sure where or what she studied. So it was a surprise,” Mukai said.

SDSU is the first of six Cal State University campuses to honor Japanese Americans. It's part of the California Nisei College Diploma Project to award honorary degrees to Japanese Americans who were robbed of a college education during World War II.

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