by Marti McElreath
The UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies celebrated its 25th Anniversary in May of this year with a series of events uniting students, scholars and the community, culminating in the 25th Anniversary Dinner and Tribute to Paul I. Terasaki, held on the evening of May 20, 2017 at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center.
More than 300 friends and supporters of the UCLA Terasaki Center gathered at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center to celebrate the Center’s 25 years of supporting Japanese studies at UCLA and in the wider Los Angeles community, as well as to honor the incredible life and generosity of Dr. Paul Ichiro Terasaki, transplant medicine pioneer, philanthropist, UCLA faculty member and alumnus. Guests included Gene Block, UCLA Chancellor; Honorable Akira Chiba, Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles; Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Former Secretary of Transportation and Former Secretary of Commerce; Hisako Terasaki; and Fred Notehelfer, founding director of the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies.
25 Years of Supporting Japanese Studies at UCLA
Established in 1991, the Center is currently comprised of a Board of Advisors, 15 full-time faculty and 40 Ph.D. students in Japanese Studies throughout various departments and disciplines. With an endowment of $15 million, the Center’s annual graduate student and faculty funding averages $250,000. Over the years, the Center has provided graduate fellowship support for nearly 400 students, 50 of whom have taken their PhD’s in Japan related fields.
Center programs were established with strong support from the local community to promote research and instruction in Japanese studies, with a recent focus on the profound transformations unfolding in contemporary Japanese society. In addition to extensive event and research funding, the Center continues to provide an increasing array of faculty, graduate student and community outreach fellowships.
The Center also hosts the Annual Graduate Student Symposium by providing funding to bring students, scholars, journalists and public figures to UCLA to discuss issues facing the United States and Japan. Since the inception of this symposium the Center has annually sponsored a conference on a pertinent topic relating to Japan and/or Japanese Americans.
In 2005 the Center was renamed the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies to commemorate a major endowment from the Paul I. And Hisako Terasaki Foundation.
Remembering Dr. Paul I. Terasaki
Dr. Paul Ichiro Terasaki, professor emeritus of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, was born in Los Angeles in 1929. After enduring three years at the Gila River Japanese-internment camp during World War II, Dr. Terasaki went on to earn three degrees at UCLA, including a Ph.D. and Masters in zoology.
He began his work in transplant medicine in 1950. He identified HLA antibodies as a major cause of chronic organ rejection and, in 1964, pioneered a tissue typing test, which assessed the compatibility of organ donors and recipients. This test became the international standard for tissue typing and has been used for all solid organ donors and recipients for the past 50 years.
Dr. Terasaki served as a UCLA professor of surgery starting in 1969, and founded and directed the UCLA Tissue Typing Laboratory until his retirement from UCLA in 1999. In 1984, he launched One Lambda, a company that played a central role in the development and advancement of tissue typing. After retiring from UCLA, he established the Terasaki Foundation Laboratory, a research center dedicated to cancer immunotherapy and the study of humoral immunity and transplantation.
Dr. Terasaki also harbored a great passion for education and international exchange, and a dedication to UCLA that extended beyond just the life sciences. His and his wife Hisako’s generous gifts to the UCLA Terasaki Center have given hundreds of UCLA students the opportunity to further their research and careers in Japanese studies, as well as cultivate a deeper understanding of Japanese language, culture and history. Dr. Terasaki felt strongly about encouraging young people to learn about and travel to Japan, believing that student exchange was key to establishing and maintaining positive relationships between the U.S. and Japan.
He was also deeply involved with the Japanese American community, dedicating his time and support to organizations such as the U.S.-Japan Council, the Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, and the Japanese American Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.
The UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies is deeply honored to be part of this legacy, and looks on the 25th Anniversary as an opportunity for its faculty, students, and supporters to reaffirm their commitment to promoting and developing Dr. Terasaki’s vision.
Performances by UCLA students start off the evening
The evening’s festivities began with a reception on the Luskin Conference Center terrace, where guests were greeted by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and his wife Carol, and UCLA Terasaki Center faculty and students. The reception gave guests the opportunity to reconnect with old friends before the event, as well as greet the special guests and create new connections with other attendees.
Guests were also treated to student performances by UCLA’s very own Kirk Kanesaka (stage name Nakamura Gankyo), the first non-Japanese citizen to be accepted into kabuki theater, and Yukai Daiko, a taiko (Japanese drum) group composed entirely of UCLA undergraduate students. As recipients of Terasaki Center fellowships and grants, Mr. Kanesaka and Yukai Daiko represent the Terasaki Center’s commitment to supporting UCLA student activities, as well as serve as real-life examples of how Terasaki Center donors and supporters have helped students explore and promote the Japanese cultural arts.
UCLA hosts welcome guests and announce the Terasaki Centennial Scholars Endowment for Undergraduate Students
After the reception guests were escorted down to the UCLA Luskin Conference Center Centennial Ballroom, where they were greeted by beautiful floral pieces made by Sogetsu Ikebana, a traditional Japanese flower arrangement group and Terasaki Community Outreach Grant recipient, and a stage illuminated in UCLA blue and gold. Master of Ceremonies Fred Katayama, business news anchor at Reuters and nephew of Dr. Terasaki, invited everyone to take their seats and opened up the dinner.
The program began with welcoming remarks from UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, who thanked everyone for coming and recognized Consul General Akira Chiba, the Honorable Norman Mineta, and former District Attorney Gil Garcetti for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend. He then recognized Dr. Terasaki’s wisdom and foresight, saying that his intuition and ideas were always ahead of their time. “Through Dr. Terasaki and Hisako’s generosity,” Chancellor Block said, “UCLA has been enriched and Japanese Studies transformed.”
“The Terasaki Family has continued Paul’s tradition of giving and steadfast dedication to UCLA with their most recent gift to support the UCLA Centennial Scholars Match,” he continued. As part of the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies 25th Anniversary, the Terasaki Family Foundation gave $100,000 to establish the Terasaki Centennial Scholars Endowment as part of the UCLA Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Match, an initiative begun by Chancellor Block in 2016 that matches donations over $75,000 with university funds. The Shapiro-Moor Families contributed a further $50,000, the total sum of which UCLA matched by 50%, resulting in a new total endowment of $225,000 that will focus on supporting undergraduate students at UCLA.
Chancellor Block once more congratulated the Terasaki Center on a quarter century of excellence before inviting Vice Provost for International Studies and Global Engagement Cindy Fan to the stage.
“The Terasaki Center is one of UCLA’s crown jewels,” began Vice Provost Fan. She spoke about the Center’s importance to UCLA’s engagement in Asia and the world and pointed out that with over 1,000 members, the Japanese Alumni Association is UCLA’s largest. In honoring the Japanese alumni’s contributions to the continued expansion of Japanese Studies at UCLA, she recognized Masaru Murai, Tomohiro Tohyama, and Kiyoshi Kurokawa of the UCLA Japan Alumni Association, all three of whom were in attendance at the dinner. As well as being active members of the Terasaki Center Advisory Board, these three alumni also spearheaded the creation of the newly opened UCLA Japan Center, an office in Kashiwa-no-Ha City near Tokyo managed by the UCLA Japan Alumni Association that will serve as research space for visiting UCLA faculty and students as well as a hub for recruiting young new Bruins from Japan.
The welcoming introductions were closed by Terasaki Center Director and UCLA Professor of Architecture Hitoshi Abe. Director Abe expressed his pride at serving as the Center Director for the past six years, and reaffirmed the Center’s dedication to honoring and realizing Dr. Terasaki’s vision for U.S. – Japan Relations. He stressed the importance of new projects such as the UCLA Japan Center, saying that they represent a new stage in relationships between the UCLA communities in Los Angeles and Japan.
“In this different era the only way to address the future is to share a vision with a strong community and build it up together. I believe everyone here tonight will participate in forming the strong community with the Terasaki Center to envision and create the future together,” he said.
Closing his remarks, Director Abe introduced the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies 25th Anniversary video, which introduces the Center’s history, activities, and mission, and highlights Dr. Terasaki’s unparalleled contributions. The video can be seen here.
Special guests talk about their memories of Dr. Terasaki and experiences with U.S. – Japan Relations
The second half of the dinner celebration was opened by Irene Hirano, President of the U.S.-Japan Council and Chair of the UCLA Terasaki Center Board of Advisors, as well as an old friend of Dr. Paul Terasaki and the Terasaki family. Chair Hirano thanked everyone on behalf of the Board of Advisors for attending and introduced the eight Advisory Committee members present at the dinner: Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Masaru Murai, Tomohiro Toyama, and Ryuji Watanabe, who had made the long journey all the way from Japan, and Judge Carl Moor, Ralph Shapiro, Keith Terasaki, and Consul General Akira Chiba.
Chair Hirano recounted fond memories with Dr. Terasaki, highlighting his success in recruiting Professor Abe as Director of the Center as an example of how he always succeeded once he made up his mind. Having worked with Dr. Terasaki in co-founding the U.S.-Japan Council, she had been frequent witness to his generosity and passion, and was intimately acquainted with the causes he felt strongest about. She expressed her pride in being able to contribute to his vision, not only through the U.S.-Japan Council but also through the UCLA Terasaki Center, which she believes “embodies the three areas of commitment Paul focused on: UCLA, U.S.-Japan Relations, and the linkage with the Japanese American community.”
“Paul’s belief in the learning, teaching, and research the Center could do was important to him, but he also knew that the Center could be a linkage to community organizations that would ensure that UCLA and Japan had a continued relationship. Over the years the Center has worked towards these goals, and this evening reflects the coming together of Paul’s vision with so many of you that are in this room.”
Chair Hirano finished by introducing the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, former Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Commerce, who was a long-time friend and source of inspiration for Dr. Terasaki.
Secretary Mineta began by saying that it was an honor for him and his wife to attend the dinner, and that they fondly remember the talks they shared with Paul and Hisako over frequent dinners. However, his relationship with Dr. Terasaki was characterized by more than simple camaraderie – the two men shared the traumatic experience of being interned during their childhoods due to their Japanese ancestry. “Paul was very proud to be an American.” Secretary Mineta said. “And he was also proud of his Japanese ancestry.”
Those experiences led both men to cherish their cultural roots and pursue a life of bolstering the Japanese American community. Secretary Mineta entered into politics, becoming mayor of San Jose in 1971 and then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1975, finally serving as Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Transportation under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush respectively. Dr. Terasaki pursued science and academics, pioneering new techniques in organ transplant technology and using his resources to build a legacy not only at UCLA, but also throughout the Japanese American community of Los Angeles by supporting institutions such as the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the Little Tokyo Service Center, and the Japanese American National Museum.
“Through Paul’s generosity and commitment to education, culture, and supporting the sustainability of the Japanese American community, he continues to touch many lives and multiple generations. Paul was committed to deepening and sustaining the relations with Japan and was constantly creating new ways to form partnerships and open hearts and minds through scholarships and fellowships here at UCLA. Tonight we continue to thank and honor Dr. Paul Terasaki for his vision, his friendship, his commitment, and so much more that he has done in our community.”
Terasaki family receives the UCLA Terasaki Center 25th Anniversary Tribute Award honoring the life of Dr. Paul I. Terasaki
Secretary Mineta concluded his speech by inviting the Terasaki family on stage to receive the UCLA Terasaki Center 25th Anniversary Tribute Award, dedicated in honor of the work and life of Dr. Paul I. Terasaki. Dr. Keith Terasaki and Taiji Terasaki, two of Dr. Terasaki's sons, as well as their families gathered on stage to accept the award on behalf of the Terasaki family.
After a round of applause, Dr. Keith Terasaki stepped forward to say a few words. He thanked everyone for coming, and expressed the pride he was sure his father would have felt in receiving the 25th Anniversary Tribute Award. “My father put a lot of thought and effort into the UCLA Japan Center,” he said.
“One of my father’s goals was to work on improving relations between the United States and Japan. Importantly, he used to always tell me that the youth are the key. He always wanted there to be college students with access to good professors in both countries learning about the other country. This is the real reason he decided to support the UCLA Center for Japanese Studies.”
Dr. Keith Terasaki also spoke about his father’s deep loyalty to UCLA, which accepted him at a difficult time in American history after World War II when Japanese Americans were still facing severe racial discrimination. UCLA provided Dr. Terasaki with an open and safe academic environment which proved to be the springboard for his many future scientific accomplishments.
In closing, Dr. Keith Terasaki thanked everyone again for attending, and urged them to continue supporting the development of strong U.S.-Japan relations. Mr. Taiji Terasaki then stepped forward, holding out his cellphone and asking everyone to smile into the camera. Although Mrs. Hisako Terasaki was unable to attend the dinner, her family connected with her through video chat so that she could see all of the guests who came out to support her husband’s legacy and the Center to which she is both donor and namesake. As Mr. Taiji Terasaki scanned the room with his phone, the guests stood and waved, welcoming Mrs. Terasaki into the celebrations.
Master of Ceremonies Fred Katayama closed the awards ceremony by expressing his deep pride and amazement at how far the Japanese American community has come from the days when Dr. Terasaki and Secretary Mineta were interned during World War II. Now, the names of great Japanese Americans can be seen honored and celebrated all across the country. In Los Angeles, Little Tokyo has announced the establishment of the Paul I. Terasaki Budokan, a sports facility for the Japanese American community named after a $3.5 million donation from the Terasaki Family Foundation. The Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport was named after Secretary Mineta, who served as mayor of San Jose from 1971 – 1975. And in early 2017, Honolulu's international airport was renamed the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in honor of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, United States Senator from Hawaii for 49 years between 1963 and 2012 and the highest-ranking Japanese American in U.S. History
Acknowledging the forefathers of Japanese Studies at UCLA and closing out the 25th Anniversary Dinner and Tribute to Paul I. Terasaki
UCLA Terasaki Center Associate Director and professor in the Asian Languages and Cultures Department Seiji Lippit closed the dinner with a few final acknowledgments. “I have taught Japanese literature and culture at UCLA for over 20 years,” Professor Lippit said, “and I have had the privilege of being associated with the Terasaki Center for that entire time.”
He continued by saying that one of the Center’s most remarkable features was that in its history, the Center has had only three directors, all of whom were in attendance at the dinner: Fred Notehelfer, professor emeritus of Japanese History and founding director; Mike Thies, professor in Political Science; and Hitoshi Abe, professor in Architecture and current director since 2011. He asked each to stand in the order in which they served so that they could be acknowledged for their contributions to securing the prestige that Japanese Studies enjoys at UCLA today.
Next Professor Lippit acknowledged the Terasaki Center's students and faculty, who are the active forces in realizing Dr. Terasaki’s vision of increased engagement and education between the U.S. and Japan. He also thanked the UCLA Terasaki Center staff for their constant dedication in carrying out the Center’s many projects and events, and the student performers for donating their time and talent to the evening’s celebrations.
Finally, Professor Lippit closed by expressing his appreciation to all of the guests in attendance for helping the Center out so much throughout the years.
“We have accomplished a lot in 25 years, but there are also many exciting possibilities ahead of us. I’m excited to see what the future will bring. I hope you will continue to remain connected to us as we build the future of this Center and carry on the legacy of those who came before us.”