Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. This order affected about 120,000 people, most of them were American citizens.
Macalester participated in the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council, as one of 680 institutions east of the exclusion zone that admitted Japanese American students who had been forcibly relocated and incarcerated. Macalester was the first college in Minnesota to accept Japanese students. Esther Torii Suzuki, half of the namesake of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center on campus, was one of the first students from Japanese internment camps to be admitted to Macalester. The other students were Ellen Okagaki, Misao Furuta, Uta Shimotsuka, Emily Kadota, William Takano, George Takano, Henry Makino, George Suzuki, Tom Kuranishi, Simpachi Kanow, David Imagawa, Clifford Nakadegawa, Dorothy Ogota, and Eunice Torii.
Not much can be found about these students’ experiences during their time at Macalester. The presence of these students is only mentioned in the Mac Weekly once during this time (see right). Additionally, the Mac Weekly continued to publish racist and xenophobic articles about Japanese people during the war.
Newspaper clipping from The Mac Weekly, August 23, 1944
Esther Suzuki (Esther Mikiko Torii)
In May 1942, Esther Suzuki (then Esther Torii) and her family were forcibly placed in detention camps in Portland, Oregon, the city she had lived in her entire life. Suzuki, her parents and her two sisters had to pack their lives into two suitcases each and relocate to living quarters made of horse stalls. Her acceptance into Macalester was her way out, even though it meant leaving her family—who was to be moved to a permanent internment camp in Idaho—behind. Before she could be released from detention, she had to mail Macalester President Charles Turck’s acceptance letter to the War Department. She also had to attain three letters of recommendation from Caucasians attesting to her loyalty and letters from the St. Paul police and fire chiefs acknowledging her residence in the city. She and five others students were the first Japanese-American students at Macalester. Including her future husband, George Suzuki, who was drafted in 1944 even as his family was in an internment camp. Suzuki graduated with an honors degree in sociology in 1946 and after her children were grown, became the only social worker of Asian descent in Ramsey County at the time. She spent most of her career participating in civil rights groups and developing programs specifically to assist the Southeast Asian-American population.
Esther Suzuki and students, From the 1944 Yearbook
Eunice Chisaye Torii
Eunice Torii was originally from Portland, Oregon but was moved with her family to the Minidoka camp in Hunt, Idaho. She began at Macalester as a first year in 1945 but later transferred to the University of Minnesota. She is also the younger sister of Esther Torii Suzuki.
Ellen Yoshi Okagaki
Ellen Okagaki was originally from San Jose, California and attended San Jose State University but was forcibly relocated to the Heart Mountain interment camp in Cody, Wyoming. She transferred to Macalester in 1943 and graduated in 1944 with the first cohort of Japanese-American students. She was very involved in student life.
Image of Ellen Okagaki playing football for the 1623 Summit Ave girls’ team for a Homecoming event. From the 1944 yearbook.
David Imagawa was born and raised in Northern California. After graduating from Macalester, he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Minnesota and became an instructor in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology. In 1952 he was recruited by UCLA as an assistant professor of pediatrics and of microbiology and immunology. From 1966 through 1991 he served as director of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Research Laboratories and the Diagnostic Virology Laboratory at Harbor-UCLA. He became a full professor in 1969, and professor emeritus in 1991. Imagawa was an internationally recognized immunologist and virologist. He was the author of eighty-one research papers and eighty-eight abstracts.
George Masuru Takano
George Takano was originally from the Seattle area but was relocated to Tule Lake camp in Newell, CA. He attended the University of Washington but transferred to Macalester as a Junior and attended from 1943 to 1945.
George Takano (front center) and other pre med students. From the 1946 Yearbook.
William Shigeru Takano
William Takano was originally from the Seattle area but was relocated to Tule Lake camp in Newell, CA. George Takano was his older brother. He also attended Macalester starting in 1943 as a first year.
Mary Masako Hata
Mary Masako Hata was originally from Stockton, California and was relocated to Rohwer camp in McGeehee, Arkansas. She attended San Francisco State University before being relocated and attended Macalester as a senior in 1944.
Henry Kazumi Makino
Henry Makino was originally from Oregon but was relocated to the Minidoka Center in Hunt, Idaho. He entered Macalester as a Junior in 1944 and graduated in 1947. He studied Chemistry.
Image of Henry Makino (top left) and other Mac students from 1944 Yearbook. “Ten refugees from the army commandeered men’s residence, borrow the Mac truck to transport their belongings to Gamma Delt house at 1507 Goodrich”
George Masaharu Suzuki
George Suzuki was originally from Portland, Oregon and was relocated to the Minidoka camp in Hunt, Idaho. He enrolled at Macalester in 1943. He met his future wife, Esther Torii at Macalester. He was drafted in 1944 and was accepted into the Military Intelligence Service at Fort Snelling. He was trained to be a translator and interpreted and was sent to the Philippines and later occupied Japan. After his discharge from the army in 1946, George and Esther were married. He later graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1949.
From the 1994 book “Reflections : Memoirs of Japanese American Women in Minnesota”
Misao Furuta was from El Cajon, California and was relocated to the Colorado River Center in Poston, Arizona. She attended Macalester for one year in 1945.
Uta Shimotsuka was originally from Salinas, California but was relocated to Poston, Arizona at the Colorado River Center interment camp. She attended Macalester from 1944 to 1947.
From the 1947 Yearbook
Tom Torao Kuranishi
Tom Kuranishi was originally from Oregon and was relocated to the Minidoka camp in Hunt, Idaho. He started at Macalester in 1945 as a Junior.
Clifford Takeshi Nakadegawa
Clifford Takeshi Nakadegawa was from Los Angeles originally but was forcibly relocated to Colorado River center in Poston, Arizona. He began at Macalester as a junior in 1944.
To the right is a clipping from the Poston Chronicle (Newspaper from the Colorado River internment camp) from February 2, 1943 that mentions Clifford Nakadegawa under “Week-end’s Social Hi-lites.” Clifford Nakadegawa was the director of young people’s activities in the camp.
Tokiko Inouye was originally from Los Angeles, California and was relocated to Gila River center in Arizona. She entered Macalester as a first year in 1945.
Emily Kadota was originally from San Luis Obispo, California but was relocated to the Gila River Center in Arizona. She attended Macalester from 1944 to 1947. She was involved in student life on campus and was the secretary of Alpha Delta Theta, the med tech sorority on campus.
From the 1947 Yearbook
Dorothy Takako Ogata
Dorothy Ogata was originally from Lodi, California and was relocated to the Rohwer camp in McGeehee, Arkansas. She began at Macalester as a first year in 1945.
National Archives Japanese-American Internee Records
Some information about these students was found from the National Archives records of Japanese-American Internees
Austin, Allan W. From Concentration Camp to Campus: Japanese American Students and World War II. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2004.
O’Brien, Robert W. The College Nisei. Palo Alto, Pacific Books, 1949.
National Archives [Japanese-American Internee Data File], 1942 – 1946. Record Group 210. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/fielded-search.jsp?dt=3099&tf=F&cat=WR26&bc=,sl
Tsuchida, Nobuya. Reflections: Memoirs of Japanese American Women in Minnesota. Covina, Pacific Asia Press, 1994.