Distinguished alumnus, former college president John Ishii
Tuesday, March 20, 2001
Wash. - A Saint Martins High School and College graduate, who went on to
become president of the institution while working to foster a better
understanding of cultural differences between Asians and Americans, died
on March 18.
John D. Ishii, Ph.D., died in Centralia after a series of strokes
which left him quiet and in need of constant nursing. Father Kilian
Malvey, O.S.B., will officiate the funeral mass, which will be held
March 23 at 10:30 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lacey. The
college is in the process of planning its own memorial service.
"One of the most significant things about Dr. Ishii was his world
prospective. He saw things in a global prospective at a time when a lot
of us hadn't even started to," said Norma Shelan, who first realized the
compassion Ishii possessed, when she was hired as a professor at Saint
Martin's in 1978 and he offered to help her move boxes. "Whether you
were sitting in on his class or just casually talking to him, his
profound perspective shone through.
"I remember after he started the Institute of Pacific Rim Studies, he
was explaining to me the importance of providing our students with a
positive experience. He knew a young man who had a terrible experience
when he came to the U.S. and went on to be an important political figure
in the Pacific Rim, but remained bitter toward the U.S. Dr. Ishii said
every one of our students needed to be treated with great respect and
hospitality, which are Benedictine traits, because they will impact the
world and our future."
Ishii, who was born in Seattle, had a deep love for teaching,
learning and working for the betterment of society, qualities that were
evident when he entered Saint Martin's High School in the fall of 1934.
He graduated valedictorian of his high school class in 1938 and
continued his education at Saint Martin's College until World War II. In
1942, soon after completing his bachelor's degree in political science,
Ishii married Lillian Horiuchi and the couple departed for Wyoming to
escape Japanese internment camps.
He then enlisted and served with the U.S. Army's Military
Intelligence in Asia and used his GI Bill to pursue a master's degree.
He received his master's degree in political science from Georgetown
University in Washington, D.C., in 1947. In 1950 he received a doctorate
in international relations from Georgetown. He served as special
assistant to the president of Georgetown until 1950, and then, after
working with Asian countries with the State Department until 1965, he
became political and economic affairs advisor to the Prime Minister of
Malaysia. In 1971, Ishii was conferred by His Royal Highness the King of
Malaysia, "The Order of the Royal Sword," for his work in Malaysia.
In 1973, Ishii returned to Saint Martin's to begin work as an
associate professor of political science. As a professor, Ishii founded
the Saint Martin's College International Relations Club, which promoted
cultural awareness and served as a vehicle for students to share in
various cultural activities. He was appointed vice president for
academic affairs in 1979.
A year later he accepted the appointment as the first layperson to
serve as president of the private, liberal arts college. The appointment
also made him the first Asian American to preside over a Washington
State college or university. During his tenure, a new computer lab that
ranked third only to the labs at Harvard and Cornell was installed and
the engineering department, summer course offerings and international
marketing program were all expanded. During the five years he served as
president new programs including graduate programs in education,
engineering and psychology as well as The Pacific Rim Institute was also
started. He retired in 1985, after which he was named president emeritus
and served on the college's Board of Trustees. He received the
Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995 and soon after was named trustee
After retiring he served as consultant of the Pacific Rim
Intercultural and Educational Programs and chairman of the Washington
State Advisory Council on International Trade and Development. Other
retirement activities included work on the Friends of Higher Education
board, co-chairman of the Independent Colleges of Washington and work
with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Secretary
of State Ralph Munro also appointed him chairman of the Washington
Commission of the Humanities. In addition, Ishii served on the board of
directors for the Northwest Theological Union, Olympic Federal Savings
and Loan Bank, Japanese American Citizens League, Governor's American
Asian Affairs Commission, International Pacific Asian Consortium, YMCA's
International Division and Olympia Symphony.
Ishii is survived by his wife Lillian, his daughter Patti and her
husband, Jim Halbmier; his daughter Tobey and her husband, Bret
Anderson; his daughter Addie and her husband Paul Magnant; his son Paul
and his wife, Jane; his son John William and a growing number of
Donations in Ishii's name may be made to the Tiffin House, 812
Cowlitz Road, Centralia, WA 98531.
For more information:
Christina Ramírez-Milhoan, communications specialist
Office of Communication