Irene Hirano Inouye Honored by Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University conferred an honorary doctorate degree to USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye on May 16. Our sincere thanks to Council Member Bill Tsutsui for making this possible, and for the following article!


On May 16, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. The honorary degree, the first ever given by the institution to an American of Asian descent, was formally conferred at SMU's 100th May commencement, which featured former president George W. Bush as the graduation speaker.

Irene's career was the subject of a symposium, “Celebrating the American Experience and U.S.-Japan Relations: Irene Hirano Inouye, Her Life, Works and Achievements,” organized on May 15 by SMU's John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in partnership with the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth. The speakers, who included Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, retired commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during Operation Tomodachi, praised Irene for her commitment to “strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship at the grassroots level” and build “strong people-to-people friendship” through the TOMODACHI Initiative. Irene spoke to the audience, which included members of the diplomatic corps, representatives from Toyota and other Japanese corporations in North Texas, and SMU students and faculty, about her personal experience as a Japanese American, the importance of a strong bilateral relationship with Japan, and the opportunities for economic and cultural connections with Japan in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.

The speakers (L-R: Irene Hirano Inouye; Admiral Patrick M. Walsh; Anny Wong, Tower Center Research Fellow, SMU; and moderator Hiroki Takeuchi, Associate Professor & Director of Sun & Star Program on Japan East Asia, Tower Center, SMU) share a laugh (All photos courtesy of SMU)

An honorary doctorate is the highest recognition which a university can bestow and I am thrilled that I was able to initiate Irene's nomination in 2014, during my final year as dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Congratulations Dr. Hirano Inouye!

Irene Hirano Inouye with other speakers of the symposium, leaders of SMU and the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth, Consul-General of Japan in Houston Nozomu Takaoka, and other leaders engaged in U.S.-Japan relations