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2016 Honors Dr. Bob Suzuki


Dr. Suzuki was born in Portland, Oregon to Japanese immigrant parents. During World War II, he was imprisoned with his family in an internment camp in Minidoka, Idaho, where he received his first three years of schooling. After the war, his family resettled in a rural community near Spokane, Washington, where he grew up and worked on the family’s farm. In high school, he was student body president and graduated as class valedictorian. He then attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his BS degree in 1960 and his MS degree in 1962 in Mechanical Engineering. From 1961 to 1963, he worked as a research engineer for the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. In 1963, he returned to graduate school at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. After completing his doctorate there in 1967, he taught for four and a half years in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California.

While teaching at USC, he became deeply involved in civil rights and public and community affairs. Among numerous activities, he was one of the leaders of a successful nationwide campaign that led to the Congressional repeal of the Emergency Detention Act of 1950, and served as chair of the National Education Commission of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), and vice chair of the Community Advisory Committee for the Desegregation of the Pasadena Schools.

As a result of his involvement in these activities, he decided in 1971 to change his professional field and devote himself full-time to work that more directly addressed pressing societal problems. 

Dr. Suzuki has been honored on numerous occasions for his contributions in the areas of community service, education, and human and civil rights. Most recently, on November 3, 2003, he was conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon by the Japanese Government. He and his wife, Agnes (nee Hirano), who hails originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, and has a BA degree in Sociology from UC Berkeley, have three grown children