Masako and Stanley

Continuing a legacy of learning

May 30, 2022
Author: Eric Zimmer

The story of Masako and Stanley Fukawa’s contributions to VIU and Japanese Canadian history.

For more than half a decade, The Masako and Stanley Fukawa Scholarship and the Fukawa Excellence Scholarship have been awarded to students in the Faculty of Social Sciences at VIU.

But for the scholarships’ namesakes, their connection to the school – and to the Nanaimo community – runs much deeper.

Masako and Stanley met while studying at the University of British Columbia and were married in 1961. They moved to England where Stanley started graduate studies at the London School of Economics and three years later in Tokyo, Japan. They returned to North America in 1965, first landing in Ann Arbor, Michigan and then moving to Toronto. In 1971, they moved back to BC, settling in Nanaimo with their two kids.

That same year, Stanley joined VIU (called Malaspina College at the time) and taught Sociology, Research Methods, Asian Studies and Japanese. He served as a Research and Planning Officer and in 1988 initiated the instructor exchange program with Obirin College in Tokyo before retiring in 1995.

Masako began teaching Grade 1 at an elementary school in Nanaimo before moving into the position of a resource teacher, then head teacher, then principal of two elementary schools.

The pair spent a year teaching English and Canadian Studies at Obirin College and upon their return to Vancouver Island, Masako took a position with the Ministry of Education, coordinating the Asian Languages and International Exchange programs. After five years, she came to VIU (by now called Malaspina University-College) the same year Stanley retired. From 1995 to 1999 she served as Development Director, Secondary School with the International Education department. In this role, she developed the high school program for international students at the Nanaimo campus – a school that still exists on campus today – and served as Founding Principal until her retirement in 1999.

Following their retirement and the birth of their first grandchild, they moved to Burnaby to buy a house with their daughter, rather than regularly taking the ferry back-and-forth to visit.

Masako and Stanley have written a variety of books and articles over the years, as well as given talks at conferences and to school groups about Japanese Canadian history.  In 2010, the Canada Council for the Arts recognized their book, Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet, and presented them with the 2010 Canada-Japan Literary award.

Stanley has also served on a number of local and provincial boards to promote human rights and multiculturalism. He was honoured in 1992 with the Canada 125 Medal for Community Service. In 2012, he received an honorary degree from Keio University in Tokyo for his work in promoting cultural understanding between Canada and Japan. Masako continued her work with teachers and developed resources for BC public schools. She also co-authored a book for young readers, Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War. Both he and Masako received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013.

In 2016, when she learned that VIU was creating a scholarship in her and Stanley’s name, Masako says it was a “total surprise and we were speechless. It is a tremendous honour.”

The official certificate presented to her and Stanley by then-VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson reads:

In recognition of Masako and Stanley Fukawa and their scholarship and continued contributions to the understanding of Japanese-Canadian history on the west coast of Canada. VIU has established in their name a student scholarship fund and will award an annual scholarship to an international student who is majoring in one of the Social Sciences.

“In 2017, we made a 10-year commitment to provide a scholarship based on excellence for a Social Sciences student,” says Masako. “As educators, we are especially committed to promoting anti-racism/multiculturalism/diversity in Canadian society.”

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