Commencement
Past Honorary Degree Recipients

Caroline Kondo Taniguchi

  • Caroline graduated from Garfield High School in Seattle. She was a nursing student at Seattle College when the war broke out. She was one of a few students allowed to go to Colorado to complete her nursing education. After graduation, she moved to Chicago and worked at Wesley Memorial Hospital and other hospitals. In Chicago, she met her husband, George, and had one son, David. After 13 years in nursing, she became a medical records administrator, which she did until retirement. She and George moved to Hawaii, where they lived until his death in 2007. She then moved to Sunnyvale, Calif., to be closer to her son and grandchildren. She will be 90 in April.

    Caroline was a student at Seattle College and working at Providence Hospital when the exclusion orders were issued. Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr had offered to accept Japanese Americans at the University of Colorado, and she was one of the few Seattle College students allowed to continue their nursing education there.

    She recalls leaving Seattle on a train with classmate Madeleine Iwata.

    "Madeleine and I shared an upper berth," she said. "I couldn't sleep for two nights, but we made it to Denver."

    Both felt fortunate for the opportunity.

    "I didn't have to go to camp. I felt very lucky, but I felt kind of sorry for my girlfriends who ended up in camp," she said. "I was very grateful to the governor of Colorado because he accepted us. It was a very good nursing school. We had excellent training."

    After completing school, she moved to Chicago to be near her sister, who had married and moved there before the war. She stopped on the way and picked up her parents, who had moved to Indiana after they were released from camp.

    "I found a job right away," she said. "Chicago was a wonderful place to be living after the war. Jobs were plentiful, and the people were wonderful. I will never forget Chicago. A lot of people went back to Seattle, but my folks were very happy to be in Chicago because they had jobs and we were close to each other."

    Though she went to Colorado, her parents were forced to leave their rented home in Seattle and sent to camp.

    "All their furnishings they had to give away or just leave," she said. "It was hard for them they. They went through a lot, but we all survived, thank goodness."

    She was a nurse for 13 years before becoming a medical records administrator, which she did until she retired. In Chicago, she met her husband, George, and had a son, David. After retirement, she and George moved to Hawaii, where they lived until his death in 2007. She moved to Sunnyvale, Calif., to be close to her son and grandchildren.

    Caroline said she was thrilled to hear from Professor Lori Bannai and to reconnect with others related to the honorary degree project. She has remained good friends with her classmate Uri (Satow) Matsuda, who also worked in Chicago after the war. She has heard from Madeleine's son and shared stories of his late mother.

    "I was amazed at the things he didn't know," she said. "It was nice to be in touch with him."

    She won't be able to travel to the Commencement ceremony, but she is grateful to the university.

    "It was very gratifying to hear that I was getting an honorary degree, but I didn't really do anything to deserve it," she said. "I was just lucky to be at Seattle College when the war broke out."