San Francisco State University, Established 1899, 1600 Holloway Ave. SF, CA 94132

SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.


Contact: Christina Holmes
phone: (415) 405-3803 or (415) 338-1665

Garden of Remembrance honors 19 former San Francisco State University Japanese students interned during World War II

SAN FRANCISCO, September 10, 2001 - Construction has begun on a permanent memorial and waterfall garden at San Francisco State University to honor all Americans of Japanese ancestry who were sent to American-style concentration campus interned during World War II.

Renowned Japanese American artist, teacher and former camp internee Ruth Asawa will design the Garden of Remembrance. The memorial will honor the 19 Japanese American students who were forced to withdraw from classes at SFSU in 1942 and taken to internment camps.

"It is important for us as a University community to recognize a terrible injustice inflicted upon loyal American citizens and remind ourselves, our students and community, of our shared responsibility to uphold the rights of all people at all times," said President Robert A. Corrigan. "We also want to acknowledge our alumni who for no other reason than their ancestry were denied a college education at the time and to remember them in perpetuity as esteemed members of our University family."

Asawa, a San Francisco-based artist whose pieces are displayed at such as places as the University of California Medical Center, the Japanese American Internment Memorial for the Federal Building in San Jose, the rededicated fountains in San Francisco's Japantown, Ghiradelli Square and Bayside Plaza near the Embarcadero, developed her love for art during a year-long incarceration in the Rowher, Ark. internment camp. This memorial, she said, allows students to contemplate in a serene setting the horrible acts that took place years ago.

"A lot of students don't know about the internment camps. They believe that it doesn't affect them but I think it's important that they recognize what took place," said Asawa, who was 16 and a high school junior in Norwalk, Calif. when she and her family were ordered into the camps during the spring of 1942. "I thought it would be nice if we could do something that told the story but not in a bitter way and not just as a Japanese story. This is a story about liberty and freedom."

The memorial and waterfall will be located in the serene courtyard between Burk Hall and the Fine Arts Building. Once completed it will be the largest and most extensive permanent memorial on the University's campus.

Ten large boulders will be selected to represent each of the 10 internment camps set up during World War II. The stones symbolize the deprivation of the camps that were located in dry desert-like places. In contrast, a waterfall will be created to signify the return of the internees to the coastline after the war. Placed nearby will be benches where students and visitors can sit and take in the setting.

At 7 feet long and 22 inches high, the bronze marker shaped as a scroll will bear the names of the camps and the family crests of the families whose children were among the SFSU students interned. The marker will also tell the story of the internment through official documents.

"I want this memorial to be very pleasant and a place for people to gather, to think and to enjoy," said Asawa, who was awarded an honorary degree from San Francisco State University in 1998.

Assisting Asawa with design and construction of the project is Isao Ogura and Shigeru Namba of the Professional Gardeners Federation of Northern California. Phil Evans, director of campus grounds, and Mark Johnson, director of the art gallery, have also worked closely with Asawa, Ogura and Namba.

Construction will continue at the site in coming months and the memorial garden will be dedicated in a public ceremony in spring 2002.

The Garden of Remembrance is made possible by a $125,000 grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. To make a donation to the garden, contact Rebecca Thompson in the Office of University Development at (415) 405-3642.

One of the largest campuses in the California State University system, SFSU was founded in 1899 and today is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public and urban university.

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Last modified April 24, 2007, by Office of Public Affairs