One of the former students is 86-year-old Gus Ikemoto. He started classes at UC Davis, or the College of Agriculture at Davis as it was called then, back in 1941…
“…right when Pearl Harbor happened.”
Arlene Lawrence is Ikemoto’s niece.
“He said he’s kind of embarrassed because he really didn’t go that long. It was like one semester. And then the following semester they were told to leave.”
Ikemoto lives in Chicago now and won’t be able to attend tomorrow’s event. But his niece Arlene will. She lives in San Jose and will be accepting the degree for her uncle.
“I talked to him as soon as I found out about this graduation and I could tell he was completely surprised. And it was like medicine for us. We didn’t know that we needed it. But when we received it, it was a wonderful thing.”
More than 700 UC students were affected in 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order allowing the U-S military to send people of Japanese descent to internment camps. In July, the UC Regents voted to suspend the university system's 37-year moratorium on honorary degrees to acknowledge the former internees.
Daniel Simmons is vice-chair of the UC Academic Senate. He says tomorrow’s ceremony promises to be an emotional event.
“I’m not a Japanese American but I get a little bit choked up thinking about this, both in terms of what we did to people back in 1942 and the impact that it’s had on people’s lives.”
For Arlene Lawrence, who’ll be accepting a degree on behalf of her uncle Gus Ikemoto, it’ll be a moment of extreme pride.
“In his place I’m going to say thank you to the UC system. It’s a very wonderful thing that they’re doing.”
Three other UC campuses – Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles – are also awarding honorary degrees.