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California Nisei College Diploma Project

Compton Community College District Participates in the California Nisei College Diploma Project

On October 16, nearly seven decades after their college educations were interrupted by internment during World War II, 78 Japanese Americans finally received honorary diplomas.

Fifty-one families, including 43 former students, were in attendance to receive honorary Associate of Arts degrees from the Compton Community College District in a special graduation ceremony as part of the California Nisei College Diploma Project. Assembly Member Warren Furutani was the keynote speaker for the ceremony. In his address he noted that the Compton District ceremony was one of the largest California Nisei Diploma Project ceremonies he attended.

In 2009, Furutani authored Assembly Bill 37, which bestows honorary degrees on individuals whose college education was disrupted due to the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The California Community College, California State University and University of California systems are all participating in this project. Since this historic legislation was signed into law, hundreds of Japanese Americans have received honorary degrees, some posthumously, from colleges and universities throughout California.

With approximately 300 people in attendance, the festivities began with a reception in the Student Lounge and a viewing of an exhibit titled "The Nisei Student Experience at Compton Junior College." Following the ceremony, the exhibit will remain in the library for the remainder of the fall semester to help share these students' stories.

Congratulations to all of our Nisei graduates and family members! We are proud to have participated in this historic statewide initiative.

Nisei Graduation Ceremony Videos


Media Coverage

  • Honorary college diplomas awarded - Los Angeles Times
  • 442nd Veteran Recipients - Rafu Shimpo
  • Reunited after 68 years - Rafu Shimpo
  • Siblings awarded honorary diplomas - Nikkei Nation
  • WWII internees finally get college degrees - UPI

As a result of AB 37 (Furutani) we are conducting a statewide search for former Japanese American students whose studies at the former Compton Junior College were suspended in 1942, when Executive Order 9066 was issued during World War II. Our efforts are part of the California Nisei College Diploma Project, which aims to award honorary degrees to all those forced out of institutions of higher learning and into internment camps by Executive Order 9066.

We estimate that in 1942, approximately 95 Japanese Americans were studying at what was then the Compton Junior College. We are actively seeking these former students to invite them, or a family representative, to participate in a special ceremony this fall where they will be presented with an honorary degree.

If you or a member of your family were forced to leave the former Compton Junior College because of Executive Order 9066, contact: Michael Odanaka, 310-900-1600, ext 2916, or odanaka_m@compton.edu.

The following names have been identified as possibly affected students. The list is by student last name as it appeared in the former Compton Junior College records at the time (Circa 1942). If you know or have any potential information regarding students listed here, or know someone who should be on the list, please contact: Michael Odanaka, 310-900-1600, ext 2916, or odanaka_m@compton.edu.

List of affected students (PDF, 90k)

We are also working with the following organizations to help locate affected students:

About the California Nisei Diploma Project

California Nisei Diploma Project Facts:

  • The California Nisei Project is the implementation of AB 37, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach), and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 11, 2009.
  • AB 37 calls upon institutions of higher education in the state of California to confer honorary degrees to "each person, living or deceased, who was forced to suspend his or her studies at a public postsecondary educational institution in which that person was enrolled as a result of the issuance of federal Executive Order 9066."

Executive Order 9066 Facts:

  • Executive Order 9066 was signed and issued in 1942 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • The order authorized the Secretary of War to prescribe "military areas ... from which any or all persons may be excluded. "California West Coast and Southern Arizona were declared such areas, which resulted in the ban and removal or internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry.
  • Those affected by the order were sent to nearly 40 camps located throughout the country.
  • The order did not specify ethnicities or nationalities, and several thousand people of German and Italian ancestry were also detained.
  • The order was finally rescinded in 1976 by President Gerald Ford.
  • More than 2,500 Japanese American students were forced to interrupt their studies by EO 9066.
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