June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Yasui family honored in naming of new residence hall

3 min read
The Yasui family members “deeply appreciate the focus on Minoru, Michi, Shu, and Yuka but wish for the name to honor the activism and extraordinary service of all these family members on behalf of their relatives and broader Japanese American community in the interest of democracy and justice.”

The University of Oregon announced the name of the new residence hall formerly known as Building C. At the Finance and Facilities Committee meeting June 3:

Roger Thompson (Student Services and Enrollment Management, vice president): This is an exciting moment. It’s not every day we get to name new buildings, so we thought we’d bring you up to date on the new residence hall naming recommendation… the opportunity to honor a tremendous family here in the state of Oregon that has been impactful across the state and across the country.

[00:00:27] The building we’re hoping you will approve to name is Building C. It’s the apartment-style housing in the center of campus, micro studios and quad units are available there. Students may live alone or with friends…

[00:00:42] A couple criteria that we had: We wanted a connection to the University of Oregon or to the state of Oregon. We wanted, obviously, to support the ‘Naming of Facilities’ policy, and to highlight experiences of historically underrepresented or marginalized groups at the University of Oregon.

[00:01:01] So, with Building C, the name recognition is: The Yasui Residence Hall. To give you a little context about this family, they’re amazing. It’s a story of immigrants intertwined with the fabric of the University of Oregon and American history. Three generations of the Yasui family have attended and graduated from the University of Oregon. And we honor the siblings Minoru, Michi, Shu, and Yuka Yasui. I want to give you just a moment to see what each of these individuals have done.

[00:01:35] Minoru: First Japanese American to graduate from the University of Oregon School of Law. First Japanese American attorney admitted to the Oregon State Bar. During World War II, defied and challenged the constitutionality of curfew laws based on racial affiliation in a case that reached the Supreme Court. And as you may recall, in 2015 was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Barack Obama, the first Oregonian to be so honored.

[00:02:09] When we look at Michi, a senior at the University of Oregon when the Executive Order 9066 mandated the removal of Japanese Americans to incarceration camps, she completed her senior year, but was denied permission to attend graduation due to the imposed curfew. Fled campus for Denver soon thereafter to join her brother beyond the restricted military zones of the West Coast. Honored at the University of Oregon graduation in 1986 with the diploma she was unable to receive in 1942.

[00:02:46] Shu was a first-year student majoring in pre-medicine when Executive Order 9066 was instituted. Similarly, he was determined to continue his education and fled to Denver. One of 12 alumni to receive honorary degrees in recognition of their forced withdrawal from the University of Oregon in 1942.

[00:03:07] Lastly, Yuka, held at two incarceration camps in California before moving to Denver. Graduated high school at the top of her class in 1944. First Japanese American student to return to the University of Oregon and graduate in 1948. Went on to win a Fulbright scholarship to work and study demography at the Institute of Public Health in Japan.

[00:03:34] I do want to recognize the two committee chairs that worked through this process: Dr. Anna Schmidt-MacKenzie, who happens to be my chief of staff, and Dr. Kevin Hatfield, a professor of history here at the University of Oregon. Both of them deserve tremendous credit for navigating the committee and all the names that were submitted.

[00:03:54] On behalf of the committee that reviewed this naming opportunity, it is my great pleasure to present this family and this name for your consideration, for the new name of Building C.

[00:04:09] John Q: A lobby display in the new building will explain the significance of the name. The family said they wished the naming ‘to honor the activism and extraordinary service of all these family members on behalf of their relatives and broader Japanese American community in the interest of democracy and justice.’

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