• Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

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U.S.C. to Issue Honorary Degrees to Displaced Japanese Students

For the children of the students, most of whom have died, this degree feels like “getting closure,” Dr. Larry Fujioka, a dentist in Hawaii, said. For him, this degree felt “much more meaningful” than any recognition that his father, John Masato Fujioka, one of the students to be honored, received in the past.

He said the school’s previous attempts to honor the displaced students, in 2008 and 2012, didn’t represent “a true apology and a true gesture by the university to really come to grips about what they had done.”

Dr. Fujioka, 68, said his father “never held a grudge against U.S.C., despite what they did.” He rarely talked about what came after Executive Order 9066, but he always wore his U.S.C. sweatshirt.

“He always felt like a U.S.C. man,” Dr. Fujioka said. “I think he’d be very happy with this.”

Joanne Kumamoto said her father, Jiro Oishi, would be very happy with the news, but for her, it is a bittersweet moment. Her father died in 2002, so he was not recognized in the previous ceremonies.

“I’m really happy for my dad because I know this is something he really wanted,” Ms. Kumamoto, 76, said. For as long as she could remember, he was proud to be a Trojan. He wore the school colors, cardinal and gold, and had season tickets to U.S.C. football and basketball games. It wasn’t until Ms. Kumamoto was in high school that she found out her father did not graduate from U.S.C.

“Personally, I’m a little more, you know, sorry that this didn’t happen earlier,” she said. “But I’m trying to stay positive, because I think it’s a good step for U.S.C.”

Mr. Kaji said a lot had changed since 2007, like the new president’s openness to addressing racist chapters of U.S.C. history. But mostly what has changed is context, he said.