By Kay Takeyama Dilena, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita of Management
Alumna of San Francisco State
When I taught at San Francisco State in the 1970s and 1980s, I came to understand that I was instructing a generation that had no memory of Japan and the U.S. at war. Within these students’ lifetimes, the two countries had always been strategic allies and economic partners. The American-Japanese relationship formed the foundation of a cross Pacific exchange of goods, ideas and cultures. I was amazed and thrilled to see the friendship evolve between my native and adopted nations, but concerned that we might be losing an understanding of the history that brought us together.
This experience, in part, led me to join with my husband, brother and sister-in-law on a book that described our family’s experience through World War II and the time that immediately followed. My brother and I at the time were in Japan – my husband and sister-in-law in the U.S.
My husband, James Dilena, survived the attack that killed friends in Pearl Harbor while serving in the U.S. Navy. My brother was a naval officer in Hiroshima when the nuclear bomb detonated. His memories are of the horrible and haunting carnage of a city leveled in a flash.
My brother was reborn in that moment. As a journalist, he became a voice for peaceful relations and an expert that helped bridge the gap between American and Japanese cultures. His example of understanding for peace is one that I proudly followed.
I brought my brother’s mission with me when I moved from the East Coast to California. For those of us who find a new beginning in San Francisco, the towers of the Golden Gate have much the same connotation that the Statue of Liberty does in New York. The Golden Gate’s imagery is appropriate – a bridge between people and cultures. That inspired mix of people and cultures is concentrated on the San Francisco State campus.
I am so pleased that I have the opportunity to create an endowment to help continue the university’s work in bridging the people of the U.S. and Japan. It is also greatly satisfying to know that the university will permanently honor the names of my husband and brother at the Dilena Takeyama Center for the Study of Japan and Japanese Culture.
For all the similarities we share, American and Japanese cultures are richly distinct and we all benefit for a better understanding of each other.
Note: Professor Emerita Takeyama Dilena gifted an endowment of $5 million that will be used to give new prominence to the study of Japan at San Francisco State and enhance cultural understanding between the U.S. and Japan.