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3 Nikkei Voices - The 2012 UBC Convocation Experience - Part 2

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From Toronto’s Greig Nishio, 56, son of Tom Nishio, 91:

First I must commend Mary and Tosh for their hard work and selfless determination without whom none of this would have happened.

Greeting us at the airport was terrific and set the mood for the remainder of the trip.

Second I must commend UBC for putting on first class convocation for the graduates. Before arriving, my Dad had been apprehensive and skeptical about how the ceremony was going to proceed but was very appreciative after.

I agree the best part was seeing the 10 recipients who attended in person. I will never forget the spontaneous standing ovation when the first recipient was announced and how it continued until the last.

Nori Nishio at UBC

To see my Dad and Uncle (Nori, 89, Nanaimo, B.C.) the only two siblings to attend, receive their degrees was special.

Glad that so many of the graduates who could not attend were represented by a family member and to see how emotional it was for many of them. On a sad note that the ceremony came too late for many.

To see the dignity the recipients displayed in talking with the press in articulating their stories.

For my Dad it was all about family, so to share this with all of us was very special but he always felt fortunate he had been able to attain his degree while so many others due to circumstances beyond their control were never able to.

Dad said that he knew only a few of the graduates when attending UBC as many had been in different faculties. He met most only year's later. This was reinforced for Robynn and I when we saw a friend of the family at the lunch and only then found out both her father and mother were graduates.

One touching moment happened at the lunch when a woman sat beside my Uncle Nori, 89: Upon introducing herself it turned out my Uncle had known her father and told her stories about him that moved her to tears.

Both my cousins and ourselves reiterated how much we had learned about our Dads' lives and the lives of Japanese Canadians in the past year.

This stems from what we noticed about my Dad and Uncle (and the other recipients) that they had not dwelled on what had happened but moved on with their lives many years ago so this was just a period of time from their past.

From Greig’s sister, Robynn, 64:

It has been more than a month since that amazing, too much to describe in a few words, convocation which we still talk about most days. It has been fun to continue the memories as we are writing thank you notes, emailing new friends, showing dad’s rugby shirt and scarf, framing the honorary degree, rereading the yearbook and convocation agenda and of course organizing the multitude of pictures.

Tom Nishio and the chancellor

What are my lasting memories of the convocation?

Being met at the airport by the Kitagawa’s and Alden Habacon. Going to dad’s high school, Kitsilano High and finding the grad pictures from high school on the wall still in excellent condition. Going to my dad and uncle’s elementary school and dad remembering the basement and yard and talking to some of the parent volunteers there about the history of the school. Seeing the family home and finding it not that much different from that many years ago when the Nishio’s lived there. Seeing the 10 recipients go on stage to receive their degrees, and when the recipients turned to the audience to have their capes draped over their shoulders.

A last word…

I was in a state of awe through the entire event: at moments I gasped at others I held back tears.

The entire event was a wave of emotion. We were reminded that Kiichi Noguchi (1941-42, 4th year, Faculty of Arts and Science) passed away just two months before as did James H. Hasegawa (1941-42, 1st year, Faculty of Arts and Science) just two days before the event. I was deeply moved when I saw the brother of my friend Hatsumi Hosoi (Kobe, Japan), Dr. Edward Teiso Uyeno, who taught at Stanford University, receive a diploma. Others using walkers and being helped across the stage: “What a remarkable generation,” I kept repeating to myself.

The final student presentation was a dignified and respectful salute to Our Nisei. As Charles H. Kadota (1941-42, 2nd year, Arts and Science) was pushed heroically across the stage in a wheelchair to receive his long belated honour, I could somehow hear the voices of all Nisei present and not saying in their typically modest and understated fashion, “You really didn’t need to go to all of this bother but it sure was a nice event. Honto ni domo arigato gozaimashita!”

Charles Kadota. He just passed away on Aug. 15, 2012 at age 90. He was past president of the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association and played a prominent role in the 1988 fight for Redress.

Important Footnote: The University of British Columbia has set up a “1942 Japanese Canadian UBC Students Fund” as a tribute to recognize the Japanese Canadian students of 1942 who were unable to complete their UBC degrees or to take part in their graduation ceremonies.

Donations will help support the Faculty of Arts and UBC Library in their commitment to educating future students about this period in history through the new Asian Canadian Studies program. Funds will focus on preserving historical materials and the stories of our elders for future generations, on creating community-based research that engages students with their families and communities, and on directly supporting students in the study of Japanese Canadians and other Asian Canadians.

For more information, please go to http://startanevolution.ubc.ca/projects/1942-japanese-canadian-ubc-students-fund/

© 2012 Norm Ibuki

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