By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
“I’ve been connected with UCLA maybe through my umbilical cord. I was born in 1929, it was the same year UCLA started and also in 1948 when I first came to UCLA, the medical school had just started,” mused Paul Terasaki, as the university dedicated the new Terasaki Life Sciences Building on Sunday.
Terasaki, who earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and PhD from UCLA, will now have a building named for him on the Westwood campus on the southern section near the Geffen School of Medicine. The Terasaki Life Science Building, due to open in October, includes 33 laboratories, where hundreds of scientists will conduct state-of-the-science research integrating such fields as cell biology, neuroscience, genomics and stem cell research.
“It’s been a great privilege and surprise for me to have Chancellor (Gene) Block suggest that this building might be named for me,” said Terasaki.
The naming was in recognition of the $50 million donation given by Terasaki to the Division of Life Sciences in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. It also is a lasting tribute to the Nisei scientist, who pioneered research into organ transplant tissue typing and established UCLA’s HLA laboratory and the UCLA Kidney Transplant Registry. In 2006, the Terasakis also established the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at the UCLA International Institute.
Terasaki was humble as he acknowledged the honor among a gathering of several hundred friends, family and colleagues. In his remarks he paid special tribute to his wife, Hisako.
“The person I have known longest, for 60 years, is the person I owe the most to, my wife, Hisako,” said Terasaki.
Victoria Sork, dean of Life Sciences said the Terasaki Building would be a facility where scientists would collaborate in cutting edge labs and shared resource spaces. The building is also within five minutes of UCLA’s centers for cancer, medicine, applied sciences and stem cell research.
“I want to thank Paul and Hisako Terasaki for your extraordinary generosity and vision. Your remarkable gift has greatly advanced our research and teaching missions, propelling us much more quickly to crucial discoveries throughout this century,” said Sork.
Chancellor Block noted that when Terasaki first came to UCLA in 1948 there were a dozen buildings on campus.
“Today we are humbled that this new beautiful structure will foster groundbreaking science for years to come and will forever bear their family’s name,” said Block.
Many colleagues as well as leaders in the Japanese American community came to celebrate the building dedication. Dr. Jon Kobashigawa, director of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute’s Heart Transplant Program, said Terasaki’s donation would lead to improvements in the field or organ transplants.
“Dr. Terasaki is one of the humblest men in the world, he is very unassuming. One would not guess that he is a future Nobel laureate, in my opinion,” said Dr. Kobashigawa. “His work truly has saved many lives and improved the quality of life for many of our patients.”
For some in the audience that point was particularly well taken. In his remarks, Terasaki also noted those in the audience who had received organ transplants, including Etsuko Price and Ronald Doizaki, who received a kidney transplant 30 years ago.
Speaking afterwards, Doizaki, who had his tranplant in 1978, said he was grateful to be here to celebrate.
“Without him, I wouldn’t be here. Before that, the doctors said kidney transplants were no good, they’d fail,” said Doizaki. “I’m really happy for him, he deserves this honor. He saved a lot of lives with his tissue match, otherwise I’d maybe be dead.”