Jean Mieko Morisuye was born in Sharon, PA on August 26, 1926 to Masanobu “Mori” Morisuye and Kikue Hasegawa Morisuye. She chose to attend Oberlin in 1944 because of its lack of fraternities and sororities and because of high praises from a neighboring Obie alum. She graduated from Oberlin with a B.A. in Zoology in 1948, and received a Masters in Biology from Brown University. Some of her numerous job positions included teaching assistant in the Brown Zoology Department, Research Assistant at Yale’s Department of Anatomy, and Research Assistant at Barnard’s Zoology Department.
While working at Yale, Jean met and married Yale anthropologist and professor Harold Colyer Conklin on June 11, 1954 and they had three children, Bruce Robert and Mark William Conklin. As a family they traveled on three trips to the Philippines for Harold’s research, and Jean devoted her time to anthropological documentation. This culminated in 2002 with her book “An Ilfugao Notebook”, documenting the family’s 1968-9 experience in Luzon. Jean passed away peacefully in Hamden, Connecticut on July 22, 2010 with Harold at her side.
(Before passing, Jean would regularly update the Oberlin Alumni Association, documenting her numerous job positions at Yale, including executive assistant to the director of athletics, and director of human resources and to the general counsel, finally reaching the “no-children-at-home stage” in 1977, and her post-retirement projects such as “getting family photos in order, throwing out stuff we don’t need, knitting sweaters and scarves, and still finding time to travel to the west coast to see grandchildren”.)
“We Asked Permission from the Police Department”
Ours was the only Japanese family in Sharon, Pennsylvania where my father since 1925 was an electrical engineer at the Westinghouse plant. I was born in Sharon.
Except for the week following Pearl Harbor while he was being investigated, my father continued to work at the plant. The only restriction was that the sections of the plant that were working on war-related things were off-limits to him. His salary was also frozen during the war years resulting in a comparatively low salary for the last half of his service at Westinghouse. The people at the plant, and, in fact, any who knew us in town, continued to be supportive and friendly.
The police did come to the house and removed our short-wave radio and any books or magazines written in Japanese. Everything was returned at a later date. We were restricted in travel to a distance of 5 miles from Sharon, but if we asked permission from the police department for a travel outside this zone, it was granted and they always offered to watch the house while we were gone. We used this privilege mainly when my parents drove me to or from Oberlin at the beginning or end of the school year. For holidays a lot of us traveled by bus because of gas rationing.
I entered Oberlin in the fall of 1944 and graduated in 1948. I considered only two colleges, Ohio Wesleyan and Oberlin, and chose the latter because it had no sororities or fraternities. Also, someone in Sharon was a graduate of Oberlin and she visited our home to assure us that it was a great place to go to school. My high school grades were good but not super-exceptional. I applied and was accepted, probably because the school was anxious to do its part in accepting Japanese students.
To my knowledge, the Nisei students were treated very well on campus and in town. It is possible that I was given a single room, albeit a very tiny one, my freshman year because they were not sure of a roommate’s reaction. But my room became a gathering point and I made many life-long friends that year.