3.22.2016

Pioneering Asian American scholar Don T. Nakanishi dies

Former UCLA professor was widely recognized as one of the forefathers of Asian American Studies.



A legendary scholar and leader has passed. Professor Don T. Nakanishi, Director Emeritus of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and a pioneer in the field of Asian American Studies, has died. He was 66.

Professor Nakanishi was the Director Emeritus of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the largest and most renowned research and teaching institute in Asian American Studies in the nation, and Professor Emeritus of UCLA's departments of Asian American Studies and education.

A trailblazing educator, beloved community leader and mentor to generations of scholars and activists, he was considered one of the forefathers of Asian American Studies as an academic discipline.

Professor Nakanishi passed away Monday afternoon in Los Angeles. His family shared the news via Facebook:

We regret to inform you as friends of Don Nakanishi that he passed away this afternoon in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to the Don T. Nakanishi Award for Outstanding Engaged Scholarship for Graduate & Undergradate Students at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center (http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/news/nakanishiaward2015.aspx) or to the Nakanishi Prize at Yale University (http://yalecollege.yale.edu/student-services/funding-opportunities/nakanishi-prize). Funeral arrangements are pending and will be shared in the upcoming days. Thank you for your love and support, Marsha and Tom

Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Professor Nakanishi received his B.A. in intensive political science from Yale University in 1971, and his Ph.S., also in political science, from Harvard University in 1978.

Professor Nakanishi is recognized for developing the fields of Asian American political and educational research. He was the first to demonstrate that Asian Americans, despite their high group levels of education and income that are usually associated with active political participation, had very low levels of voter registration and voting.

Don Nakanishi speaks about his writings and Asian American politics. in 2010.

He also began in 1976 to compile lists of Asian American elected officials across the country, thereby launching the National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac, which is now in its 13th edition and has been touted as the "indispensable guide to Asian American politics." Two of his popular books -- Asian American Politics: Law, Participation, and Policy, which he co-authored with James Lai, and Asian American Educational Experience, which he co-authored with Tina Yamano Nishida -- have served to capture and advance the study and teaching of Asian American political and educational research.

A prolific writer and highly influential teacher, Professor Nakanishi wrote over 100 books, articles and reports on the political participation of Asian Pacific Americans and other ethnic and racial groups in American politics; educational research on issues of access and representation; and the international political dimensions of minority experiences. His many former students include faculty members at colleges and universities across the world, award-winning writers and artists, elected officials, community leaders and educators.

Upon his retirement in 2009, faculty colleagues, alumni, students, donors, and friends also joined together to establish a special endowment at UCLA entitled, "The Don T. Nakanishi Engaged Research Prize," which annually recognizes and provides cash awards to UCLA faculty and graduate students in Asian American Studies who are pursuing outstanding community-based engaged research.

Professor Nakanishi is survived by his wife Marsha Hirano-Nakanishi, and his son Thomas. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be shared in the upcoming days.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to the Don T. Nakanishi Award for Outstanding Engaged Scholarship for Graduate & Undergradate Students at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center or to the Nakanishi Prize at Yale University.

Rest in peace, Professor.


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