In 2011, the Korematsu Center and the School of Law spearheaded the effort to award honorary degrees to Japanese Americans who were forced to leave their Seattle University educations as a result of their incarceration during World War II.

Seattle University Award Honorary Degrees to Japanese Americans incarcerated During World War II

It has been nearly 70 years since Thomas T. Yamauchi was forced to leave Seattle University and abandon his prized education. He was one of 15 Japanese Americans whose educations at SU were disrupted by their unjust removal in 1942 during World War II.

Honorary Degree ceremony
Honorary Degree Ceremony (2011)

To contribute to the healing from this injustice, the Seattle University Board of Trustees granted Yamauchi and the other former students honorary bachelor degrees at the undergraduate commencement ceremony on June 12, 2011. Honorees or their relatives were invited to accept the degrees.

Yamauchi's widow, Anne, said she was looking forward to accepting the degree on his behalf. "He was anxious to continue his schooling after camp," she said. "He was very ambitious."

University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J, and Board of Trustees acted on a request by Professor Lori Bannai, associate director of the law school's Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, that was broadly supported by Dean Mark Niles, the faculty and the university community.

"These individuals, who were our students, were required by federal order to leave our community as a result of the fear, racial hatred and hostility that prevailed in the wake of Pearl Harbor," said President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. "We honor these former students to recognize their courage and sacrifice, to address the injustice that occurred, and with hope that this recognition contributes to the healing process."

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Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality
901 12th Avenue
Sullivan Hall 313
Seattle, WA 98122-1090
Phone: 206-398-4394
Fax: 206-398-4077

Please note: The Korematsu Center will conclude its tenure at Seattle University in June 2024. We are in the process of building a new center for civil rights that will continue this important work. To learn more about those plans and ways that you can support them, please contact Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Affairs Feven Teklu at