Alumni Profiles     


Masaye Nagao Nakamura, ’45     
         Distinguished Alumna, 2003


Many Park University alumni are familiar with the Alumni Association’s 2003 Distinguished Alumna Award recipient, Masaye Nagao Nakamura, ’45. The story of her experiences during the years of Japanese-American internment was recently retold in the Winter 2003 Alumniad.

Nakamura was selected because of the courage she has demonstrated through the years. She was honored for the bravery required to survive the ordeal as well as the courage it has taken to keep the story alive. Through her efforts she has helped to make this a more tolerant world.

Nakamura’s family was confined in World War II internment camps, first in California and later in Heart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming. Through the valiant efforts of Park President William Lindsay Young, she and eight other Japanese-American “Nisei” or second generation young adults were able to leave the camps and attend school at Park University. Nakamura has compiled her story of survival and triumph in a speech which she has shared with audiences throughout the last sixty years. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary convocation commemorating Park’s Japanese-American Student Transfer Initiative, Nakamura took center stage in Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel to share her story with yet another group of listeners. (Read her speech.)

Nakamura co-produced the documentary Strength and Diversity: Japanese American Women 1885-1990, which chronicled the history of Japanese-American women during the years of the internment. This video has been widely viewed throughout the United States. Her story has become the subject of a lesson plan currently being used by history instructors to teach the events of the evacuation and detention program. Her saga also appeared in the Organization of American Historians’ OAH Magazine of History, Spring 2002.

After leaving Park, Nakamura earned a masters degree in American literature from Columbia University. She taught high school for a year in Honolulu, Hawaii, before returning to her home state of California. She married, and started a long-term career in the San Francisco Bay area. Nakamura was hired as the first Japanese-American teacher in the Oakland Unified School District where she earned the title of “Teacher of the Year” in 1978-79. She later became an administrator in the district’s research department. In this position she has been able to share her story with countless students and fellow staff members. She has also created several documentaries on the subject of internment for middle and high school students.

Nakamura is retired but continues to devote her time and energy to her message by lecturing on the evacuation and internment throughout the Bay Area.

She and her husband, Noboru, an architect, have two children and four grandchildren.



Masaye Nakamura (fourth from right)
was the featured speaker
 at Park University's convocation
 commemorating the 60th Anniversary
 of the Nisei program.
(Read her speech.)

Right to left:  Friends Ruth Simms
Miksovic, '46, Paul Frair, x45, Audrey
Berlin Frair, '45, and Julie McCollum,
Director of Alumni Relations join
Masaye at the convocation
September 2002.

With President Byers-Pevitts
 at the Alumni Weekend
Awards Banquet