SEATTLE -- When the taiko drums sound this Sunday at Seattle University, they will be celebrating news that just arrived at Uri Satow Matsuda's doorstep. She will be one of 15 former students getting honorary degrees after they were forced out of school and into incarceration camps by the U.S. government during World War II.
If you wanted to stay in the United States, you had to go east of Spokane, recalled Uri. She was a first year nursing student in 1942 even though I wanted to be a doctor, she confides. With her parents and siblings trapped in Japan, Uri lived with another Nikkei family, the Kinoshitas, while attending Seattle University. They allhad to go to Minidoka Camp in Idaho. She volunteered as a nurse at the camp infirmary.
I had good training that way, she says. Hardship training, but it was good. She left camp within a year to completenursing school at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, Illinois. She married and the couple moved to Chicago where she eventually became Head Nurse at Chicago Wesley Memorial Hospital.
Stacy Howard, communications specialistat Seattle University, says theschool's decision to award the honorary degrees wasto honor the formerstudents and recognize the injustice they sufferedduring the internment. It's really important for the University to honor the courage that all these former Seattle U students had close to 70 years ago. A lot of us can't even imagine what they wentthrough, said Howard.
In a news release, Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. said, '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. 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.
How is Uri reacting to all this? Surprised. Shocked. But I was very very grateful, she says. I missed finishing school, Ireally did.I'm glad that somebody's going to recognize thatI did try.
Of the 15 students being recognized, only two are alive.All will be recognizedduring Seattle University's commencement ceremony later this spring.
Some of the other former students being recognized: Thomas T. Yamauchi, John Fujiwara, Ben Kayji Hara, Shigeko Iseri Hirai, Dr. May Shiga Hornback, June Koto Sakaguchi, Mitsu Shoyama, Joanne Oyabe Watanabe.
Seattle University will observe the 69th anniversaryof the internment order with a taiko drumfestival this Sunday at 2at Piggott Auditorium.