NEWPORT BEACH — The graduating seniors of Newport Harbor High School will have a special addition at commencement this year, when Dr. Don Miyada returns to his alma mater to walk in his high school graduation.
Miyada was forced to miss his original ceremony in 1942, when at the beginning of World War II he and his entire family were sent to an internment camp weeks before graduation. Seventy-two years later, at the invitation of the Class of 2014, he will finally receive the commendation he deserves in this year’s graduation on June 19 at 4 p.m. at Newport Harbor High School’s Davidson Field.
Miyada began at Newport Harbor High School in 1938, unaware that in the next few years, world events would keep him from his graduation day. In the spring of 1942, Miyada and his family were sent to the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona. He treasured the Newport Harbor High School diploma he received at Poston by mail, because many of his peers from other schools were not given their diplomas; however, he missed the opportunity to celebrate this accomplishment in front of the Newport Harbor community.
When the seniors of the Class of 2014 learned of Miyada’s story, they were so moved that they decided to invite him to be a part of their own ceremony, and so right a decades-old wrong.
Despite the hardship of his family’s situation in 1942, Miyada remarkably kept a positive outlook, and what he remembers most from that time is the kindness of other people. While at Poston, he received a letter from his Newport Harbor social studies teacher, Roy O. Andersen, who went on to act as superintendent and have a Newport Beach elementary school named after him. Touched by his teacher’s genuine concern for his situation, Miyada treasured this letter and held on to it for more than 70 years. He now plans to give Andersen’s letter to Newport Harbor High School to be displayed in the school’s Heritage Hall museum.
In 1944, Miyada joined the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, and was among those awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal for their service in a Washington D.C. ceremony in 2011. When World War II ended, he was finally free to pursue higher education, and he earned a B.S. in chemistry at UCLA, and then a Ph.D. in chemistry from Michigan State University. After continuing with post-graduate studies, Miyada returned home to California to teach at UC Irvine.
Before the afternoon graduation ceremony, Miyada will be among the first 15 members inducted into the new Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame, in a special presentation at 11 a.m. on June 19 in the school’s main theater. The list of ten student alumni and five faculty includes athletes, military personnel, artists of screen and paint, as well as educators and philanthropists — all individuals who reflect Newport Harbor’s most cherished values by excelling in their chosen fields and generously giving back to their communities.
The event is open to the public, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis, and there will be an opportunity to tour the school’s Heritage Hall, which chronicles 84 years of Newport Harbor history through photos and memorabilia.
“The Hall of Fame, the Class of 2014, and the entire Newport Harbor High School community are honored to count Dr. Don Miyada as one of our own and an important part of the school’s continuing legacy,” the school said in a statement. “Since its founding in 1930, Newport Harbor High School has proudly served its community as a California Distinguished School, National Blue Ribbon School, and International Baccalaureate School. The Alumni Association is committed to honoring this legacy by preserving the school’s rich heritage, involving students past and present, and financially supporting school programs through an endowment.”