Commencement
Past Honorary Degree Recipients

June Koto Sakaguchi

  • June was forced to leave SU during her senior year when the exclusion orders were issued. She was given the choice of returning home to Shohone, Idaho, without her degree; going to an internment camp without her degree or her family; or going to Colorado to finish her BSRN. She chose to complete her education in Colorado.

    Because her family lived inland, they were not subject to the internment orders sent to those living nearer the West Coast. Her brothers enlisted, while she pursued nursing. She was working at University Hospital in Denver and met her future husband Dr. Shimpei Sakaguchi, on the job.

    He was finishing a surgical rotation in Colorado Medical School, and she was scrubbing for him. She was barely five feet tall and had to stand on a long stool to reach the operating table. She moved too far toward the end of the stool and it tipped, sending an entire tray of sterile instruments and June flying and clattering to the floor. The doctor banished her from his operating room, but her daughter recalls, not from his heart. They married March 27, 1943, less than a year after they met, and had two children. He got a job in Milwaukee, and the couple moved there in early April '43.

    The days were heavy with war, and Milwaukee was predominately German/Polish with only a handful of Japanese. Their first home was a converted back porch with a hot plate for cooking and a space heater for warmth during that first cold spring in Milwaukee. They went on to live full and happy lives in Milwaukee and had two children and four grandchildren.

    Though June did not use her education in a typical way, dinner conversation on most nights centered around "medical chatter," and she was a partner in her husband's work, giving him wise and encouraging support throughout his career. She died February 5, 1996.