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


Mr. Yorihiko Kojima, Chairman of the Board, Mitsubishi Corporation, joins USJC Board of Councilors


Mr. Kojima (seated second from right) engaging with USJC leadership at Speaker of the House John Boehner's reception prior to Prime Minister Abe's address to Congress on April 29

We are happy to welcome Mr. Yorihiko Kojima, Chairman of the Board, Mitsubishi Corporation, as a Member of the USJC Board of Councilors. Mr. Kojima joined Mitsubishi in 1965, and after holding several leadership positions, became President and CEO in 2004, and then Chairman of the Board in 2010. We are grateful for Mr. Kojima's support and look forward to working with him in the years to come.


Council Member Curtiss Rooks speaks at JACL Event

Dr. Rooks (second from right), along with (L-R) Ms. kato-kiriyama, Mr. Tomiyama and Ms. Kodama, shares his experience navigating diverse professional fields as a Japanese American

On April 25, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) National Youth/Student Council hosted a summit on the topic of networking and business as a Japanese American, featuring our very own Curtiss T. Rooks as one of the distinguished panelists.

Dr. Rooks shared the insight he has gained from serving on the Gate Millennium Scholars Program Advisory Council, among other organizations, and shed light on the importance of balancing family, community involvement, and professional career in academia.

Other speakers discussed the following topics: Mr. David Lin, National President of JACL, reiterated the importance of youth engagement within the Japanese American community; Ms. Vanna Novak, a nationally recognized trainer, consultant and coach, shared with the crowd of over 40 young professionals and community volunteers the importance of happiness, cultural roots, and confidence in effective presentation and networking; Ms. traci kato-kiriyama, a writer, actor, and multi-platform artist, spoke on how acknowledging her cultural identity has influenced her work; Mr. Craig Tomiyoshi, who works at IW Group, said that marketing that acknowledges diversity in America will be key in the growing trend of multiculturalism in marketing and communications; and Ms. Nikki Kodama, Manager of Systems Engineering and Integration at Northrup Grumman Corporation, shared her experience as a minority both ethnically and by gender.

The panelists, including Dr. Rooks (second from right), with event co-coordinators Ryan Taketomo (JANM YPN Board Member; third from left) and Kristy Ishii (JACL Pacific Southwest District Youth Representative; right)

The connection that panelists made with participants and one another was palpable. Attendees walked away with stronger networking abilities, a strong sense of community, and not only new connections, but new friends.


Parsons Fashion Exhibit SHowcases TOMODACHI Uniqlo Fellow's Original Designs

On May 12, TOMODACHI Uniqlo Fellow Ryohei Kawanishi’s work was one of 15 featured graduate projects on exhibit at the Parsons Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) Fashion Design + Society Exhibition. USJC Executive Vice President & COO Suzanne Basalla, Council Member Susan Onuma, Beverly Okada, and other friends joined the Opening Reception to celebrate the exhibition (also visited by notable fashion industry leaders such as Donna Karan). 

Ryohei with his design

Ryohei, one of Japan’s most talented young fashion designers, created eight “looks” as part of his graduate project, titled The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. This collection is a response to Marcel Duchamp’s enigmatic work of the same title, and showcases Ryohei's technique, creativity and humor. Ryohei has completed two years of study in the unique “Project Runway”-style MFA program at Parsons The New School for Design, with his graduate studies fully-funded through a generous gift to TOMODACHI by Uniqlo. Ryohei is greatly appreciative of the scholarship, without which he would not have found the opportunity to study in New York’s fashion scene or had been able to pursue his dream of creating his own designs.

Ryohei is one of three students in the first cohort of Fellows who entered school in September 2013. (His colleagues attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and Stanford Graduate School of Business.) In addition to his academic and studio training, Ryohei and the other TOMODACHI Uniqlo Fellows gained valuable business experience during a 2014 summer internship at Uniqlo USA’s NYC headquarters, under the leadership of Uniqlo USA’s Director for Corporate Social Responsibility, Mr. Jean Shein, who also attended the Exhibition’s Opening. 

A model wearing Ryohei's design

Ryohei plans to work throughout the summer to complete additional looks for the collection in time for the Parsons Fall Runway Show in September, and has invited local USJC Associate Members and the TOMODACHI Uniqlo Fellows conducting internships in NYC this summer to visit him and learn more about his designs (details to follow, NYC-based Associate Members!).


John Okamoto joins Seattle City Council

Congratulations to USJC Member John Okamoto, who was selected as the newest member of the Seattle City Council on April 27! Mr. Okamoto has run three cabinet departments for the City of Seattle, and also served as Executive Director of the Washington Education Association. More information is available in the Seattle City Council's press release.


Dennis Ogawa receives Commendation from Honolulu Consul General

Mr. Ogawa (right) with Honolulu Consul General Toyoei Shigeeda (Photos courtesy of the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu)

On April 23, Council Member Dennis Ogawa received a Commendation from the Consul General Toyoei Shigeeda in Honolulu. Mr. Ogawa was recognized for his efforts in promoting mutual understanding and friendly relations between Japan and the United States, especially through his teaching and research in Japanese American studies. 

Mr. Ogawa (front row, center) at the Consulate General



Bill Tsutsui Inaugurated as President of Hendrix College

Mr. Tsutsui delivering his inaugural address (Photo courtesy of Hendrix College)

On April 18, Hendrix College (Conway, AR) held an inauguration ceremony to officially welcome Council Member Bill Tsutsui as the school's 11th President. (The text of his inaugural address is available here.)

The college paid tribute to him, known affectionately as "Professor Godzilla" (click here to read a NPR article that explores the topic in depth) with an inflatable Godzilla on campus, as well as Godzilla cookies and other celebratory items.

The college brought Godzilla to campus in celebration of his inauguration (Photo courtesy of Hendrix College; more photos are available here. )

The inauguration schedule included the commemoration of a painting on campus by Henry Sugimoto, a Japanese American painter who was interned at Jerome Relocation Camp during World War II. His daughter, Ms. Madeleine Sugimoto, attended the event.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye also attended the inauguration ceremony. And as part of the series of related events, she spoke at the University of Arkansas's Clinton School of Public Service. She discussed the power of connections and networks, public service, and Japanese American history. See the video of her speech here, which follows an introduction by Mr. Tsutsui.



Yosuke Honjo receives Leadership Award from University of Southern California

Mr. Honjo (right) with Mr. James Ellis, Dean of the Marshall School of Business at USC (Photos courtesy of USC APAA)

On April 10, Council Member Yosuke Honjo was honored by the University of Southern California (USC) Asian Pacific Alumni Association (APAA) with a 2015 Leadership Award. Every year, the APAA pays tribute to distinguished members of the USC community at its annual Scholarship and Awards Gala. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, several USJC Members in the area, and Los Angeles Consul General Harry Horinouchi were among the guests who attended the gala and congratulated Mr. Honjo. He graduated from USC's business school in 1998.

USJC Members at the gala: (L-R) Founding Chairman Tom Iino, Council Members Yuko Kaifu and Frank Buckley, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, Mr. Honjo, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors Gary Moriwaki, Council Member Stan Koyanagi, Senior Director of the USJC(J) Board of Directors David Nishida, Council Member Linda Taira


Masami Iijima, Chairman and Director of Mitsu & Co., Ltd., joins USJC Board of Councilors

Mr. Iijima speaking at the 2014 USJC Annual Conference

We are happy to welcome Mr. Masami Iijima, Chairman and Director of Mitsui & Co., Ltd., as a Member of the Board of Councilors. Mr. Iijima joined Mitsui in 1974, and after several leadership roles in Japan and abroad, became President & CEO in April 2009. In October 2014, he was a Keynote Speaker at the 2014 USJC Annual Conference (watch his speech here). He became Chairman and Director on April 1, 2015. We are grateful for Mr. Iijima's support and look forward to working with him in the years to come.


Emily Murase Elected to San Francisco School Board President

The wonderful news continues! On January 13, USJC Council Member Emily Murase was elected to serve as President of the San Francisco School Board. She became the first President of Japanese ancestry in the San Francisco School Board's 160+ year history. 

Read more in this press release from the San Francisco School Board.


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