Irene Hirano Inouye, founding executive director and later president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award as the museum marks its 25th anniversary at a gala dinner and silent auction on Saturday, May 6, at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles.
“Reconnecting with the Past, Forging Our Future” is the theme as JANM looks back at key visionary individuals and foundations that have provided support for the museum, especially in its early days.
Hirano Inouye was appointed executive director of JANM in 1988, as it was preparing to restore the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple as the museum’s first home. She also oversaw the construction and opening of the museum’s current Pavilion building in 1999, and led JANM through its early establishment until her departure in 2009. She is currently president of the U.S.-Japan Council.
Bruce Kaji, founding director and founding president of the museum, will receive the Legacy Award. He was chairman and president of Merit Savings Bank when he led a group of local businessmen seeking to create a museum in the 1980s. He recruited volunteers and persuaded public officials to support the cause of building JANM. His ability to bring people together was integral to the founding of the institution and set the tone of collaboration that continues to be a hallmark of the museum.
The Legacy Award was established to recognize individuals and organizations that have made a lasting contribution to the museum’s institutional legacy and helped to distinguish the museum as a unique, vital, and valuable community resource.
Tom Ikeda, current and founding executive director of Densho, will receive the Founders’ Award. The Seattle-based organization uses digital technology to preserve and make accessible primary source materials on the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. Densho presents these materials and related resources for their historic value and as a means of exploring issues of democracy, intolerance, wartime hysteria, civil rights and the responsibilities of citizenship in our increasingly global society.
The Founders’ Award was established to recognize an individual or organization that advances the mission and vision of the museum’s founders in a meaningful way on a national or international scale. The founders’ vision includes, among other goals, presenting the Japanese American experience from a first-person perspective and as an integral part of America’s heritage, and encouraging appreciation for cultural diversity.
The evening will also articulate the museum’s role in today’s complex world in which civil rights and social justice are still not equal for all, and how JANM sees itself continuing to effect positive change 75 years after President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, ultimately leading to the incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.