Eugene Kiyozumi/Shigemi Uyeki, ’48

Eugene Shigemi Uyeki was born to Ryuichi Uyeki and Chisato Hirai Uyeki on March 26, 1926. During the war he was evacuated to an internment camp. He transferred from University of Utah, Salt Lake City to Oberlin in 1945. When asked why he wished to change his college, he said: “I feel that I can better prepare myself for my future work at Oberlin than here at the University of Utah. I wish to attend Oberlin because all the people whom I have asked about concerning Oberlin are very high in its praise… The most striking thing about Oberlin which influences me was its emphasis on a liberal education with preparatory works towards graduate study.”

He graduated Phi Betta Kappa from Oberlin with a BA in Political Science in 1948.

In this admissions essay, Eugene talks about how the people he met while in an internment camp influenced him to pursue the social sciences.

My Autobiography

I am an American of Japanese ancestry. I was born in the city of Seattle in the state of Washington. All of my grade school training and my two years of high school were spent in the schools in Seattle. I made excellent grades and was considered numerous times for double promotions. However, my health as a child was not very good, and after numerous consultations with my parents, it was always decided that because fo my poor health it would be inadvisable to take on extra work. Since then my health has improved considerably and I haven’t missed many days of school.

The days went merrily along. Heedless of the gathering storm clouds, most of us were busily engrossed in our play. Then the storm broke with all its fury, and our nation was plunged into the world holocaust. From that day since, like millions of other Americans, my life has not been the same.

Along with thousands of other Nisei, I was evacuated in the spring of 1942 to relocation centers in the barren deserts of the inland states. Evacuation was a very severe blow to my pride and shattered many of my pre-conceived notions of democracy. Even to the last day that I was to be evacuated, I felt that somehow the evacuation order would be rescinded. Maybe it was a blind faith in America, but it was faith.

With the passage of the great healer of all wounds–time– much of my bitterness passed away, and I put myself whole-heartedly into school studies and extra-curricular activities. My efforts were not unrewarded as witness the following positions which I held: President of the Debate Club, vice-president of the Senior Class, business manager of the Yearbook, vice-president of the Pen Club, besides numerous other lesser positions. My most thrilling experience was delivering the farewell address at our commencement excercises last June. I thought that maybe my grades would suffer for the lack of any time after engaging in so many extra-curricular activities, but they still remained just as good. Even if I had gotten lower grades, the good that I profited from these activities would more than compensate for them. Not only was I having lots of fun, but it gave me a sense of doing something for the good of the school and the community. I was constantly meeting people, always on the go, and assuming new responsibilities–doing things which would be of much value in later life.

I met many fine people in camp–both Caucasian and Nisei. The friendships I made there, friendships under a time of strain, were very enjoyable and profitable. I came to appreciate many of the things which I had taken for granted before. The monotony of regimented life in the centers, community dining halls, bath houses, and the like were abhorring to me.

Up to the time of evacuation, I was pretty set on going into one of the physical sciences as a profession. But because of evacuation and from the many influences arising out of friendships made while at the center, I have radically changed my mind, and I am very sure now that I am going into one of the social sciences. One person who has influenced me very much towards that end is Reverend Joseph M. Kitagawa of Hunt, Idaho. He is an Episcopalian minister, young as most reverends go. He is very much interested in the younger generation, and I was very fortunate in being able to help him out during the summer vacation. Just from being around him, I have to come to appreciate the good that a person trained in the social sciences can do. Another person who has influenced me a great deal is Mr. Elmer R. Smith, professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah, now on leave to the WRA at Hunt, Idaho. He was acting as community analyst at Hunt, and I spent many evenings with him discussing a variety of topics. His utter sincerity and ever-ready helpfulness in helping the Nisei who were being scored by almost everybody was like a shaft of beam in a dark room– a hope of something better to come.

I have always been an avid reader of literature of all kinds. I like to read the newspapers and news magazines for I wish to know what is going on in this complex world of ours. Lately, my taste for books has been diverted mostly towards non-fiction such as biographies and books of the times such as Sumner Welles’s “The Time for Decision.” I find a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment out of reading these kinds of books.

My plans for the future are always subject to change. At the present time, I am very much interested in majoring in Political Science, or entering the field of law. I am quite sure that I want to do graduate work in either field. Because of what we have gone through, I feel that I can add a little to the sum total of American culture.

After graduating, Eugene went on to the University of Chicago to receive an MA in Political Science in ’52, and then a Ph.D. in ’53. In 1956 he married Martha “Marty” C. Ono (a University of Pennsylvania graduate and later medical social worker), and together they had two children, Timothy M. and Robert H.

From 1952, Eugene worked as an Institutional Assistant, Associate Professor of Sociology at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, with a break from February 1954-November 1955, during which he served in the US Army as SP-3 Corporal.

“My Life History” Oberlin Admissions Essay by Dave M. Okada ’44

The following is a transcription of the personal essay for admission to the *Junior class of Oberlin College, written by Dave Masato Okada from a Japanese-American internment camp during 1942. In this eloquent account, Dave accounts the hardships of having to work to afford to attend junior college and, once graduating, working full-time at 17 years old to support his four younger brothers after the loss of their parents, which leads him to develop a permanent heart condition. He speaks of the influence of his mother and how he overcame shyness through church work in which he had become a singer, leader, and public speaker. He had just married May Machida in the camp about a week prior.

“My Life History” by Dave M. Okada (photo)

The  month of August, 1914 is to the world the beginning of World War I. For the purpose of this brief autobiography, August, 1914 should probably be more significant as the time of my birth.

The family life of an immigrant Japanese home in California was not too conducive to what might be termed the ideal rearing of a child. My father, before claiming my mother as his picture bride, has incurred debts and obligations in starting a barber shop. As long as I can remember, those debts and obligations continued to harass him, bringing in its wake a certain amount of strain within the family circle due to financial difficulties. Since both of my parents were thoroughly occupied in raising a family of five boys, I was left pretty much alone to amuse myself in games improvised through my own imagination or through various sports such as baseball and football which I played with the neighborhood children.

Yet in all her busy hours, clothing and feeding my brothers and me, and helping in the barber shop in her spare time, my mother still utilized every opportunity to counsel me and to direct my thinking toward consideration of others and helping people who were less fortunate than we. Although I was little impressed by this advice and prompting in my early adolescent yers, its subsequent effect on my way of thinking and attitude toward life has been more than beneficial.

Very early in my childhood, I was fortunate in being taken to a Sunday School operated under the auspices of the Baptist denomination. The influence that I received in the many years that I attended the Sunday School faithfully and in which I eventually became a teacher and superintendent has, I believe, contributed invaluably to any claim of character and person integrity which I may hold today.

As to my education, I was not an exceptional pupil in my grammar and high school years, although my grades were better than average. A vivid recollection which comes to me in connection with my early school years (and which hindered my full development) is the fact that I was very shy with people and unable to express myself clearly before my classmates, teachers, and strangers and people with whom I was not acquainted. Fortunately for me, during my last year in high school, through attendance at the Baptist young people’s meetings and participation in its varied activities, I developed an interest in singing and speaking in public. Through a process which required great physical and mental effort in overcoming fear and nervousness before groups of people, I was able to become an active participant and eventually a leader in young people’s activities, both religious and secular. Probably the one person who helped me more than any single individual was a white American worker in our church who devoted much time and effort toward the development of my Christian life and full and proper use of my limited talents in the service of others. To her and my mother, I owe my deepest debts of gratitude for anything of value which I may have done to date.

When I was seventeen, I lost both of my parents and as a result, I had to support myself through two years of junior college as well as contribute toward a large portion of the maintenance of a home for my four younger brothers. Fortunately, during teh first two or three years,  insurance money provided sufficient means of support to help me finish junior college. However, soon after I graduated, it was necessary for me to devote all of my time to the support of my brothers. But I was unable to find a job which paid enough, and moreover, I developed a permanent heart condition which has restricted my physical ever since. The privations which we had to endure seemed almost unbearable at times, but through the assistance of friends and some aid from the welfare department of the State, we managed to struggle along.

In 1937, after finishing a course in accounting in a local commercial school, I took and passed an examination for a State civil service position. Through hard work and through conscientious effort, I received two promotions leading to a position requiring the acceptance of many responsibilities, which included for a period of two years immediately preceding my termination of State service the privilege and responsibility of directing the work of a large group of other civil service employees. But after five years of what I considered my best efforts, the present war resulted in my dismissal in my dismissal together with all other Japanese-American workers on charges questioning my loyalty to the country of my birth which had given me all the opportunities to make myself independent and self-supporting and to appreciate the democratic foundation of my country. Today, as a consequence of the war, I have entered a new phase of my life confined (physically) for the moment within the bounds of an internment camp. The future at best is uncertain and I do not know what great changes, both social and economic, will come about as the aftermath of this war to affect the lives of us American citizens of Japanese extraction.

The anticipation of new experiences hitherto uncharted and the knowledge of sharing these experiences with my bride of a little more than a week convey to me the thought that I am starting life anew beginning with World War II. Whatever lies ahead, I have implicit faith in a Divine Providence, a personal God who will direct me into proper avenue of service by which I can render myself useful to my fellow men.

In his application, Dave said that “[Oberlin’s] high academic standards, conservatory of music and its willingness to accept students of Japanese extraction” were features or advantages at Oberlin that most influenced him to attend. A “Mrs. William S. Brant” also encouraged him to attend.

Although he spent most time working while in school, he did speak in oratorical contests and before large church groups and conventions.

“I also sang with the McNeill Club, the oldest male chorus in this section of the state.”

Other activities in high school and Jr. College: baseball (V letter), Spanish Honor Society (secretary), book club, music & drama club.

Hobbies: singing, collecting operatic recordings, reading, attending concerts & lectures

On March 2, 1943, while studying at Oberlin, Dave took part in a convocation of Three Short Talks in Finney Chapel concerning Japanese-American Relocation; his portion was entitled “The Antecedents of Evacuation” . Dave appears to have been good friends with Kenji Okuda ’45 (another Nisei who became student body president at Oberlin- a progressive feat during the war) and Sammy J. Oi.

After graduating from Oberlin in 1944, Dave got a MA from University of Chicago in Sociology, for which he won a Julius Rosenwald Fund fellowship for studying the growth of racial attitudes of Nisei in Chicago, particularly towards Negroes. (An article documenting this was published in The New York Times, May 17, 1946). Eventually he rose to be an assistant sociology professor of sociology at Carleton College. In 1955 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study and lecture at Waseda University, to which he was accompanied by his wife May and children Michael and Kimi. Dave sadly passed away in St. Paul, Minnesota at the early age of 44 from a heart attack.