Harry Goichi Yamaguchi, Obie ’43, post-retirement

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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).

 

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