USC University of Southern California

Ostrow Nisei Trojans Honored During 2012 Commencement

Nisei Diploma Project member Albert Le DDS '12 and honorary master's recipient Ryo Munekata (photo by Tracy Yen).

Seventy years after the forced internment of Japanese-American citizens and Japanese nationals during World War II interrupted their studies, USC’s Nisei (a term used to describe first-generation Japanese Americans) were awarded honorary degrees at a special reception following Commencement on May 11, 2012.

USC Alumni Association CEO Scott M. Mory welcomed the Nisei Trojans, their families, and university and alumni leaders to the reception in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.

Calling them “an inspiration to the Class of 2012 and all members of the Trojan Family,” Mory praised the Nisei Trojans for “embodying those supreme Trojan virtues of courage, faithfulness, and loyalty.”

Sustained applause and cheers greeted the Nisei Trojans as they received their honorary diplomas from USC president C. L. Max Nikias.  In addition to conferring honorary baccalaureate and master’s degrees to these former students, President Nikias presented honorary alumni certificates to representatives of deceased Nisei Trojans.

Honorary master’s degree recipient Ryo Munekata, who was pursuing his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree before internment, remained close to USC after the war. An avid fan of USC football, Munekata has been coming to games for 55 consecutive years. He said that being recognized by the university evoked memories of his “classmates back in 1941 who could not be here today. I wish they could be here to enjoy it.”

Six students of the Ostrow School of Dentistry were recognized on Commencement Day:

John Masato Fujioka – Honorary Alumnus

Iwao Harada – Honorary Alumnus

Tadashi Ochiai – Honorary Alumnus

Richard K. Otagaki – Honorary Alumnus

Frank Takashi Tofukuji – Honorary Baccalaureate

Ryo Munekata – Honorary Master

Click here for more information about the recognition of USC Nisei Trojans.

- With contributions from Tim Knight