January 29, 2010
Fresno State Presents Ex-internee with Honorary Degree On Christmas Eve, John Hiroshi Otomo (California Epsilon, ‘62) received an honorary degree from California State University, Fresno. The award was presented by Fresno State President, John Welty as part of the Nisei College Diploma Project, which gives honorary degrees to college students of Japanese ancestry whose educations were interrupted by military internment orders during World War II. Mr. Otomo was a sophomore at Fresno State College in 1942 studying agronomy when President Roosevelt signed an executive order that sent thousands of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast into isolated internment camps. With the stroke of a pen, families were devastated, their life’s work abandoned, their property confiscated, their college careers disrupted, their loyalty doubted and their constitutional rights ignored. Nearly 80 Fresno State students had to leave school. Mr. Otomo was one of them. He was interned in Gila River Internment Camp, later joined the army in the Military Intelligence Service and married after the war. He was never able to complete his education.
"They say old men don't cry, but I have some tears," Otomo said during a brief speech during an interview at his home. "Through all the adversity, the U.S.A. is the greatest country in the world."
Otomo met his wife, Elaine, at Fresno State. Although he never returned to college, their three children are all college graduates.
Read the full article published in the Fresno Bee on 12/24/2009: