City College of San Francisco, the first CA community college to honor WWII internee student

Kimi - CCSF Speaker

Kimi - CCSF Speaker

May 22, 2009.

67 years after my mom attended City College of San Francisco, she finally received her honorary AA degree. The youngest of 4 children, Kimiko Tamura (Yamaguma) was determined to get a college education back in the early 1940s. While her older siblings were already working, Kimiko enrolled in City College of San Francisco taking business courses in hopes of transferring to a 4 year college. Unfortunately, World War II put an end to her dreams and Kimiko, her family, and the Japanese American community in San Francisco were force to relocate to the internment camps in Topaz Utah. Many like Kimiko gave up their hopes of a higher education, as what ever progress they may have made over the years vanished along with their dreams.

Returning to the San Francisco after the war, Kimiko had to find work to not only support herself, but her ailing mother as well. Her father had long since passed away and the children worked hard to try to keep the family together.

Years later, after Kimiko married and had 4 children of her own, she made sure that all her children got a college degree, as education was of primary importance.

When Kimiko finally retired from work, she continued to pursue her education, and devoted her energies into developing her skills as an accomplished watercolor artist.

This year (2009), after reading an article about another Japanese American internee who received an honorary degree from a college in Oregon, Kimiko decided to contact City College of San Francisco in the hopes of getting her degree and fulfilling her lifelong dream. With the help of Martha Lucey, Dean of Public Information and Marketing, a meeting was arranged with the academic committee and the process was set in motion to have Kimiko receive her degree at the graduation ceremonies. In addition to being honored with a special recognition, Kimiko gave the final speech at the ceremonies to a rousing standing ovation. Shouts of “inspirational” and “hero” were heard throughout the hall.

We are very proud of her as her diligence and perseverance is an inspiration to us all. Special thanks to Martha Lucey, and City College of San Francisco.


3 responses to “City College of San Francisco, the first CA community college to honor WWII internee student

  1. I am profoundly moved and inspired by this story of strength, family devotion, and perserverence.
    Thank you for sharing your positive story.

  2. I am elated about the belated degree bestowed on Mrs Kimiko Yamaguma Tamura 67 years after my birth at Tanforan and incarceration at Topaz. She and many others toiled and persevered so that their children could truly live in freedom. They were the velvet glove behind the exploits of the 442nd RCT….

  3. Hi Rod and Margeau. Thanks for your comments. There are so many other deserving people out there that didn’t receive the honor as many of them have already passed on. After seeing how much it meant to her, I realize how important this was and hopefully it will inspire future generations to continue the pursuit of higher education and contribute back to the community.
    Steve Yamaguma

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