October 3, 2023
Don Nakanishi (1949-2016)
Don Nakanishi (1949-2016)

LOS ANGELES (March 22, 2016) — It is with a truly heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Professor Don T. Nakanishi’s on Monday, March 21, 2016 in Los Angeles. He is a former director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

Our sincere condolences to his wife, Marsha, and son, Thomas, and to his family members and friends during this difficult time. We will provide an update with more information as it becomes available, including a Center-hosted celebration of Don’s life in Los Angeles.

As many of you know, Don was on the faculty at UCLA for 35 years and served the Asian American Studies Center with distinction as its director from 1990-2010. Don’s contributions to Asian American Studies and ethnic studies were pioneering, and those of us at UCLA were the prime beneficiaries of Don’s leadership and scholarship. Of course, his visionary influence extended much further, literally to other continents reflected in his many travels to places like Australia and Japan to help establish and support ethnic studies.

Don co-founded Amerasia Journal in 1971, played an indispensable role in establishing Asian American Studies as a viable and relevant field of scholarship, teaching, community service, and public discourse. His fight for tenure has widely been regarded as a watershed moment in higher education and has been taught as a significant case study for multi-racial student-community mobilization. For a fuller biography, see: http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/people/dnakanishi.aspx

Despite his remarkable career, Don, in his characteristic humility, always focused on his students and colleagues, as he was often the first to advocate for and to celebrate their accomplishments. As I know is the case for hundreds if not thousands of others, I will be forever grateful to Don for his care and mentorship, extended to me since we first met when I was in graduate school and that has spanned decades.

Don will be deeply missed, but his legacy lives on through all of us who had the privilege of benefitting from his support, encouragement, and friendship.

Rest in peace, Don.

David K. Yoo
Director & Professor
UCLA Asian American Studies Center