Remembering Three Pioneers
in Asian American Studies
Ronald Takaki, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, passed away on May 26, 2009. He was 70. He is a pioneering scholar in Asian American Studies and in Ethnic Studies, and is the author of numerous books on Asian American history, including Pau Hana; Strangers From A Different Shore; A Different Mirror; and Iron Cages. He grew up in Hawaii as a third-generation Japanese American and was known as a fearless surfer. He started out as an African American history scholar before researching Asian American history. He was a mentor and an inspiration to many students, including those who are now professors.
Him Mark Lai, the internationally noted scholar, writer, and “Dean of Chinese American History” was born on November 1, 1925 in San Francisco’s Chinatown. His ten books, more than 100 essays, and research in English and Chinese on all aspects of Chinese American life are published and cited in the U.S., the Americas, China, Southeast Asia, and Australia. He graduated from Berkeley with a degree in mechanical engineering and worked at Bechtel Corp. until his retirement. Technically, his scholarship was an avocation and not his profession. Yet his scholarly achievements rival those of professional academics. Every scholar working on Chinese American history today is indebted to his pioneering scholarship, particularly his use of Chinese language sources from Chinese immigrant communities. He also served for more than 30 years on the editorial board of Amerasia Journal, the first scholarly Asian American studies periodical. The UCLA Asian American Center Press plans to publish his autobiography in 2009-2010.
Richard Masato Aoki passed away on March 15, 2009. Born November 20, 1938, Richard dedicated his life to the struggle for human rights — he was a warrior and a scholar in the truest sense. Best known as an Asian American ranking member of the Black Panther Party, Richard was also a leader in the 1969 Third World Liberation Front Strike at UC Berkeley. He became the first director of the new Asian American Studies program after the strike. He retired as a professor and administrator at Merritt and Alameda Colleges in the SF Bay Area continuing his strong ties to the community. He will be remembered for the personal impact he made on all whose lives he touched, and the social impact he made on the community movements of all people:
“…Based on my experience, I’ve seen where unity amongst the races has yielded positive results. I don’t see any other way for people to gain freedom, justice, and equality here except by being internationalist.” — Richard Aoki
The faculty and staff of the Asian American Studies Program commemorate their lives and mourn their passing. May they rest in peace, and may we continue to be inspired by their scholarship and their leadership.
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