Harry Goichi Yamaguchi, Obie ’43, post-retirement


The following is an article about Harry Goichi Yamaguchi that was published after his retirement from Indiana University in 1987. Harry, nicknamed in school as “Gooch” or “Yammy”, was one of the first Japanese-American students enrolled at Oberlin College. He enrolled prior to the start of WWII in the mindset that he would study theology and become a minister. He graduated with a major in psychology instead. At Oberlin he met his future wife, Itsue “Sue” Hisanaga, whom he married three years later in 1946.

“IU’s Harry Yamaguchi has had a People-Oriented Career” July 39, 1987

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Leaning and sharing what makes people “tick” and how troubled people can make peace with their individual words has been a career for Harry S. Yamaguchi, professor of psychology, who retired this year from Indiana University.

On his way to the niche in the academic community where he could have the best of both worlds – teaching and clinical practice – the professor had considered becoming a minister. In his aborted preparation for the pulpit, Yamaguchi left his home in Seattle, Wash., crossed the Rockies for the first time in his life, and enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio.

“I took Latin and Greek, because that was what you had to have to get into seminary,” Yamaguchi said.

The following year, it was during a summer stint as an “assistant” minister in Idaho Falls, Idaho, that he realized he didn’t have the “right stuff” for that profession.

“Fortunately that bit of experience, pretty much on my own where I had to think things through, told me that I better look for something else,” Yamaguchi explained.

But his essential interest in and concern about people remained an important need in his life.

Yamaguchi’s career goal began to take focus during his student work/study-type job under the supervision of an experimental psychologist.

“And so by having this important window on what’s out there in the field of psychology, I got seriously interested in the profession,” said the professor.

In a sense, Yamguchi’s career grew up in parallel with the profession.

“In 1941 clinical psychology really hadn’t developed into the extensive specialty area that it is today. It didn’t evolve into any formally recognized field until during World War II,” he explained.

The years between receiving his Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin in 1943 and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1949 included reserve and active duty in the U.S. Army and as a teaching assistant in the Japanese Language Program at Yale. His arrival at IU in 1951 was also preceded by clinical work in New Have, Conn., and as a visiting clinical psychologist at the University of Hawaii.

Although at least 10,000 former IU students may be able to recall having taken his undergraduate course in child psychology, Yamaguchi made a niche for himself in another way as well: his flexibility as a “switch-hitter” in administrative and service positions…


Other service to the academic community included many hours spent in Bloomington and University Faculty Council meetings as an elected or administrative representative between 1965 and 1983.

Few, if any, retiring IU faculty members rush out to buy rocking chairs for their post-teaching years, and Yamaguchi is no exception. He will be trading a teaching schedule for “personally catching up on things I have only been able to o on a hit-or-miss basis.

For example, there are certain chapters in American and Japanese history that are very interesting to me. […] It’s that kind of personal agenda item – mainly reading – that I’m looking forward to,” Yamagchi said.

That time also includes some travel, more time on the golf course with his wife, Sue; and more time wth his son, Ray, and daughter, Patti.


After a long and impressive career with numerous publications in psychology and titles in various organizations (Pres. of Asian American Psychological Association, Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs, American Psychological Association, etc.), as well as a long retirement, Harry passed away on May 11, 2002.

Harry is mentioned often in fellow Oberlin student Kenji Okuda’s letters to friends (published by University of Washington).


Oberlin President Ernest Wilkins and some side-stories

About Oberlin President Ernest Hatch Wilkins – from the Oberlin Hi-O-Hi yearbook of 1941:

Realizing that Oberlin should teach its students to accept the social responsibility of good citizenship, President Wilkins this year sponsored a series of lectures on Democracy, Communism, and Fascism. He has also encouraged the growth of such organizations such as the Peace and Public Affairs Forum. Thus we respect our president as a scholar who does not think the problems of a material world beneath his consideration, but rather feels that the keen analytical approach of the scholar is necessary if the problems of the world are to be permanently solved. More than as a scholar, however, we respect our president as a man who will listen to our troubles, help us with our problems, and enjoy the familiar greeting, “Prexy”.

(After combing through the Oberlin Hi-O-Hi yearbook of 1941, I found only three Japanese American students at Oberlin: sophomores  Mitsuko Matsno and Ichiko Mukai, and freshman Harry Yamaguchi. Mitsuko and Ichiko were freshmen in 1940.)

President Wilkins in book of 1942:

The respect and faith which the entire student body feels towards President Wilkins was never more clearly manifested than on that Tuesday after Pearl Harbor, when, with an unparalleled frankness and a moving sincerity he spoke on Oberlin’s role in the war.

Throughout the year he has striven to keep student attention directed on important national and international affairs. Liberal in thought and interested in student activities, he has always been found by students a willing counselor and friend.

In 1942, Willard Glenn Sueoka was an enrolled freshman who joined Harry (soph), Mitsuko, and Ichiko (juniors). They were the only four Japanese-Americans enrolled at the start of the war.

In 1943 Harry Yamaguchi was one of the first Japanese-Americans who attended during the war to graduate from Oberlin. He later earned a Masters and a PhD, and became an assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University.

During the same year, Itsue Hisanaga (who married Harry) and William (Bill) Tokio Makino left Oberlin without graduating.

Yet more names:

  • Ruth Sachie Kono (Mrs. Edward G. Machara) nongrad of class of ’46, attended 1943-4
  • Nishiyama, John Minori 1942-3 nongrad of ’46

Some other interesting names of Japanese students I found in yearbooks were:

  • Hirazawa, Katsumi, ’43 from School of Theology (I have a feeling that this person may not be a Nisei, but from Japan; the only Japanese-American man I’ve seen in this school so far is Victor Tadaharu Fujiu of ’47)
  • Toshio Sadaie from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Masaru Nakamura from Okawa, Kagawa, Japan. (So not actually related to my research.

At Oberlin in 1940, Masaru and Toshio were involved in the Cosmopolitan Club:

“Corda Fratres,” a club in which students of all nations are joined together for the purpose of stimulating a greater interest in international and inter-racial understanding and goodwill, and of spreading this interest throughout campus and nation. Twenty-one nationalities and twenty-two countries are represented.”

Many of the other Japanese-Americans who attended Oberlin were involved with this club as well.

Masaru Nakamura’s story is a tragic one. After leaving the Oberlin School of Theology in 1940, he returned to Japan to serve in the Imperial Navy, but was killed.


Masaru Nakamura, son of Taisuke and Tsuyue Nakamura, was born in Kagawa-ken, Japan, June 12, 190. He was graduated from the Theological Department of Doshisha University in Japan in 1932. In 1937 he entered Oberlin Graduate School of Theology and was graduated with the degree of Master of Arts. He returned to Japan in the summer of 1940 and was located in Tokyo. A letter from Michio Kozaki of the Oberlin class of 1917, written November 27, 1945, contained the information that Masaru Nakamura had died December 26, 1943, when the boat on which he was a passenger was hit by a U.S. submarine in the South China Sea. According to Mr. Kozaki’s information he was asked by the Japanese Navy department, in company with four other Japanese Christian pastors, to go on a mission to the south seas. He was survived by his wife and two children.

Later, one of our graduates, Alan Smith, was in Japan and met a Japanese friend of Mr. Nakamura who told him that he was an English language officer in the Japanese navy at the time he lost his life.

“I’m Glad I’m an Oberlin Graduate” by Yoshie Takagi Ohata ’46

Yoshie Takagi photo

I was born in New Jersey and was raised in Dumont and Englewood.

My family was the only Japanese family in those two communities. My Issei businessman father wanted his three children to be totally American and felt that this was the only way we should be brought up. My Issei mother was a Kobe College graduate. Both parents spoke to their children only in English, so today we cannot speak or understand Japanese.

I was a senior at Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood on December 7, 1941. That day was the first time I saw my father cry.

Although I applied and was accepted by colleges on the East Coast, my father felt I should go to Oberlin as he was aware of what happened on the West Coast. Our family was never evacuated, but the FBI did search our home.

The President of Kobe College and some of my mother’s Caucasian missionary teachers were Oberlin College graduates. This is the reason I applied and, I believe, was accepted by Oberlin.

I never felt different from anyone else growing up until the war years. Our family was accepted in the community, and the community was supported during the war years. The same type of acceptance continued at Oberlin except for derogatory remarks from some of the V-12 men stationed on campus.

If it weren’t for the war years, I most likely would have attended another college. However, I’m glad I’m an Oberlin graduate, as it provided me with a well-rounded background and a social consciousness that has been an asset as a wife, mother, and physician.

Yoshie Takagi graduated from Oberlin in 1946  with a BA in Psychology and went on to earn an MD. in internal medicine and geriatrics from the Women’s Medical College of PA in Philadelphia. In 1955 she left New Jersey to work as a physician in Honolulu. One year later, she married Harold Ohata, who graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University and received an MBA from NYU. Harold served with the US Army Finance Department in Germany during the war. Together, they had four children, Ann Asako, Steven Seichi, Wendy Chiyo, and Michael Tomo. Before her retirement, Yoshie worked as a staff physician then Medical Director of Maluhia Long Term Health Center.

Today in 2013, Oberlin continues to embrace and encourage diversity and acceptance, as well as imbibe its students with an intense social consciousness that shapes them and their work for the rest of their lives.

New Names!

I’d just about stopped searching for more names and then BOOM! Five more Nisei within one hour.

  • Ichiko Eliza Mukai Hisanaga (found from a letter from Kenji Okuda to Norio Higano transcribed and uploaded by the University of Washington; Kenji’s letters are pretty amusing not only because they speak of his life at Oberlin, but also because they document his and his friends’ (continuous) pursuits of women. )
  • Yoshie Morinaga (found when I tried to search for a mentioned “Haruye Morinaga, who I inevitably did not find.)
  • Midori Satoni Odo (found when flipping through the class registry after finding Ichiko’s name)
  • Roy Nakata (found when I glanced through the ’43 yearbook in which Ichiko’s senior portrait appears; he’s a freshman at the time)
  • Hisayo Morinaga (found next to Yoshie in the yearbook; they appear to be siblings)

This makes a total of AT LEAST 38 Nisei who were present in Oberlin during the WWII years. I have a feeling I’ll find a few more.

(When I began this project a few months ago, Clyde and the Archives had an estimate of “about 17” names of Nisei.)

The feeling you get when finding a ton of leads in one fell-swoop by accident = the absolute sweetest.