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Richard S. Sakurai ’53

January 29, 2022, in Gresham, Oregon.

Not long after he was born in Portland, Richard’s parents, Chiyoko and Masaru Sakurai, acquired some farm acreage in Troutdale, Oregon, that had a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. Dick spent the first 15 years of his life on the farm and attended public school in Corbett. When the U.S. entered World War II, persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were interned in U.S. internment camps scattered throughout the West. Dick and his family were interned in the camp at Minidoka, Idaho, where they spent the next three and a half years. He graduated from high school while in Minidoka, and when the war ended in September 1945, the family moved to the Vanport area of Portland.

For the next five years, Dick was in and out of a tuberculosis sanitarium, starting and dropping out of college. Finally, in 1950, he was able to restart college; he graduated from Reed having written his thesis, “Evaluation of the Error in Counting Experiments,” advised by Prof. Jean Delord [physics 1950–88]. His brother, Edward Sakurai ’58, and sister, Judith Michie Yamauchi ’60, followed in his footsteps.

Dick started his professional career at a research and development laboratory in Pennsylvania and worked for a time at the Burroughs Corporation, where he worked on the early development of the original dot matrix printer. In 1960, he returned to graduate school at Bryn Mawr and then began a career as a college professor, teaching sciences and mathematics at small, unorthodox liberal arts colleges in the Midwest and East Coast. He observed, “The name Reed College opens many doors in higher education.” While working at the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, he met and married Sandra Still, the assistant dean of students. When Dick and Sandra retired, they returned to Oregon. Sandra died in 2016. Dick became a strong advocate for the advancement of progressive causes, including a long run as a docent at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon. His sons, Saren Sakurai and Korien Sakurai, survive him.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2022

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