Imperial Valley College

Imperial Valley College awards Japanese-Americans of WWII with honorary degrees
By ROMAN FLORES, Staff Writer
Imperial Valley Press
June 13, 2010

IMPERIAL — Of the few special awards given at the Imperial Valley College commencement here Saturday, none was as steeped in history as those given to Steven Koike and Mike Kaku.

Kaku and Koike accepted honorary degrees on behalf of their family members, Terry Koike (Poston 53-5-C), the late Hiroshi Kaku (Poston 12-6-B), Emiko Kaku (Poston 12-6-B), and Sachiko Kaku (Poston 12-6-B), whose college education was disrupted when they were interned during World War II. These former local students — along with the late Arthur Kato (Poston 53-12-C) — were just 5 of the 2,567 Japanese-Americans enrolled in California’s public higher education institutions who were forcibly evacuated from their homes in 1942, according to a press release. As a result of their internment in government camps they were unable to complete their education within the United States, according to the release.

Now, almost 70 years later, the California state government passed legislation that “authorized higher educational institutions to award various types of degrees,” according to around the capitol.com.

The three living honorees, all of whom are now in their 80s, were not able to attend the commencement because of failing health and prior family engagements, but their relatives were happy to accept the honors on their behalf.

“Hiroshi attended Brawley Junior College during the day,” Mike Kaku said of his late uncle. “My aunt (Sachiko) and mother (Emiko) did not have the opportunity to attend college because the war had already started.”

The Kakus, then living in Brawley, were forced into the Poston Relocation Camp (I) near Parker, Ariz., Mike Kaku said. Later they were moved to the Tule Lake camp in Northern California until late 1944.

The Koikes were also interned at Poston, Terry Koike said.

“The story goes that my grandfather (Hashimoto) was separated from the rest of the family,” Koike said. “He went to Crystal City, Texas, while the rest of the family was in Arizona. Later they were reunited in Crystal City.”

After the Koike family was released in 1944, they followed Hashimoto back to Japan and lived there until he died. Upon their return to the states, Steven’s father, Terry, never returned to Central Junior College in El Centro or to Holtville, where he resided before the war.

“My dad came back to the states and put his life back together,” Koike said. “Eventually he started an orchid business and had some success.”

Though the honorees themselves were unavailable for comment, their family members reflected their sentiments before accepting the awards at IVC’s commencement.

“We’re very pleased that the college is making this genuine gesture,” Koike said. “I know my dad is very proud and pleased to receive this honorary degree.”

Source: http://www.ivpressonline.com/articles/2010/06/13/local_news/news02.txt

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