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
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
She and her husband, Noboru, an architect, have two children and
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
With President Byers-Pevitts
at the Alumni Weekend