Home Community Community Celebrates Nikkei Professors’ Retirement

Community Celebrates Nikkei Professors’ Retirement

From left, professors Tetsuden Kashima, Gail Nomura and Stephen Sumida are celebrated for their retirement by the community last Saturday. Photo by Eugene Tagawa

By Shihou Sasaki

The North American Post

Over 200 members of the local Nikkei (Japanese American) community celebrated three University of Washington Nikkei professors’ decades of educational services and their retirement.

The SENSEI-tional 3, a retirement celebration for three University of Washington professors Tetsuden Kashima, Gail Nomura and Stephen Sumida, was held at Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church last Saturday.

Community members praised the professors’ instrumental efforts to teach young students about the history and experiences of the Japanese Americans. The professors’ retirement will provide them with more time to be further involved with community activism, which also be greatly appreciated by the community.

The professors are now working on the 2017 Day of Remembrance, commemorating the 75th year after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. They will additionally pursue publishing a booklet of the cherry tree planting at the UW Vista in 2014 that celebrated the U.S.-Japan relationship, participate in Japanese American exhibits with local museums and engage in drama and plays to introduce Nikkei history to locals.

The numerous activities and research by the three professors include the “Long Journey Home” project to recognize over 450 Nikkei students whose college lives were interrupted by the incarceration, the cherry tree planting commemorating the U.S.-Japan friendship, the annual Day of Remembrance program to observe the day of the Executive Order 9066 and more.

Kashima began teaching at UW in 1976 as the director of Asian American Studies. The Asian American Studies program joined other ethnic studies programs to form the Department of American Ethnic Studies (AES) in 1986.

He said that Japanese Americans have faced the adversity of the World War II incarceration, but have gone on to accomplish much. They have gone on to achieve positions as cabinet members in the U.S. government. As a result of community activism, they acquired important recognition of their history and contributions, such as the Congressional Gold Medal for the Nikkei military service during World War II and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu and Minoru Yasui. The community has also seen National JACL’s public apology for the draft registers and the holding of the UW’s “Long Journey Home” program.

“Without tremendous community support, I truly believe all significant actions would not have occurred,” Kashima said.

Nomura and Sumida taught at UW for 18 years. But before then, the couple had experienced originating the American American Studies program in such places as Washington State University and the University of Michigan. Sumida said that it was an opportunity to teach thousands of students and the communities that have no such historic background or knowledge about the Japanese or Asian American experiences.

“We have retired from the University of Washington, but we are not retiring from the community,” Nomura also said. “I look forward to working with you all. With your leadership and your support, I think we can continue to build a more compassionate society and justice.”