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Hattie Masuko Kawahara Colton ’43

A picture of Hattie Kawahara Colton

Hattie Masuko Kawahara Colton ’43, November 17, 2008, at Carriage Hill nursing home in Bethesda, Maryland, from coronary artery disease. As a teenager, Hattie was adept at picking strawberries at Portland area farms, earning $100 a month during summers, which helped cover tuition and day-dodger expenses at Reed. She also received a high school scholarship for college tuition. A course taught by political science professor George Bernard Noble [1922–48] determined her academic focus in government and political science, she told Sam Fromartz ’80 in her oral history interview in 2003. At Reed, Hattie played basketball, earned a license to be a sports referee, and also worked at the library. Her education at Reed ended abruptly in 1942, when the federal government determined that nearly 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry (nikkei) residing on the West Coast were a threat to national security. She and her family were forced to abandon home, livelihood, and school, and were sent to a holding center, North Portland Assembly Center, before being shipped by train—four months later—to Minidoka relocation camp in Idaho. Among the very few possessions Hattie took to the holding center were her notes from Reed lectures; she retained them for 28 years. In order to complete semester finals in May 1942, she was escorted to the campus by military police, along with Ruth Nishino Penfold ’43 and Midori Imai Oller ’42. Hattie left Minidoka with assistance from the American Friends Service Committee, and enrolled at Mount Holyoke College, where she earned a BA and an MA in political science. Her essay, “I am an American,” describing her emotional connection to American culture, was published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1944. In 1949, she earned a PhD in political science with a focus on East Asian studies from the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis. Her thesis addressed U.S.–Japanese relations in 1931–41. She traveled to Tokyo on a Fulbright Scholarship and a Ford Foundation Fellowship to research the legislative process in Japan. While in Tokyo, she and her future husband, Kenneth Colton, taught at the International Christian University. They settled in the D.C. area in 1958. Hattie worked for the State Department from the early ’60s until retirement in 1989. She spent much of her career at the Foreign Service Institute, where she was a Far East specialist. She was recognized by the State Department with the Superior Honor Award and by Mount Holyoke as one of the college's 50 most outstanding graduates. In response to the news of Hattie's death, Gus Tanaka ’45 wrote, "It was sad to hear of her passing, as, at my age of 85, our ranks seem to be thinning at an increasing rate and it is getting to feel increasingly lonesome among our contemporaries." Survivors include two sons and one daughter; four grandchildren; three sisters; and a brother. Her husband died in 1995.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 2009

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