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Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies launches Irene Hirano Inouye AwardIrene Hirano Inouye at a meeting of the Terasaki Center board of advisors. (Photo: Reed Hutchinson.)

Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies launches Irene Hirano Inouye Award

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The award will honor the life and work of the Japanese American businesswoman, who was the founding chair of the Terasaki Center board of advisors.

UCLA International Institute, July 29, 2021 — The UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies will launch the Irene Hirano Inouye Award in 2022 in honor of the life and work of the celebrated leader in philanthropy, community engagement and advancing social causes, who was the founding chair of the Terasaki Center board of advisors.

A memorial lecture will be delivered by the award recipient in recognition of the individual’s significant and lasting contributions to U.S.-Japan relations in an area that includes, but is not limited to, academia, business, the creative arts, international relations, medicine and science.

“Ms. Hirano Inouye’s tremendous service to the Japanese American community, U.S.-Japanese relations and Japanese studies had a significant impact on UCLA, for which I am deeply grateful,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

“Ms. Hirano Inouye generously gave her time and offered her advice to UCLA and the Terasaki Center, helping the center raise considerable funding as well. More than that, she was a true and valued friend. I am thrilled that her legacy will be honored by this award,” said Block.

“Ms. Hirano Inouye’s impact was far-reaching across Japan and the United States. Her global vision will continue to live on through this important award,” said Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement at UCLA.

“Irene’s life was dedicated to advancing social causes and strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship. She proved that one single person could do so much to change people’s lives for the better.  Through this award, her torch will be carried on by distinguished individuals who have a similar sense of commitment and dedication,” said Yuko Kaifu, president, Japan House Los Angeles.

“The achievements, service and activism of Ms. Hirano Inouye are legendary,” said Hitoshi Abe, director of the Terasaki Center and professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA. “Our center benefited enormously from her leadership of our board of advisors — her ideas live on in several center initiatives.

“This award was named after Irene as the Terasaki Center’s humble contribution to honoring her life and work, ensuring that future generations of Japanese studies students are cognizant of and inspired by her innumerable contributions to all dimensions of U.S.-Japan relations.”

A distinguished honoree for the award will be selected by a special committee consisting of the center’s faculty members and board of advisors.

Follow these links to reach the Terasaki Center website and donation page.

Irene Hirano Inouye

Irene Hirano Inouye was president of the U.S.-Japan Council, a position she held since the founding of the council in late 2008. Through the U.S.-Japan Council, she jointly administered the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership, with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The initiative born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake. The TOMODACHI Initiative invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges and leadership programs. Ms. Hirano Inouye was also the president and founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, a position that she held for twenty years.

A recipient of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from the University of Southern California, Ms. Hirano Inouye had extensive experience in non-profit administration, community education and public affairs relating to culturally diverse communities nationwide. She served as trustee and immediate past chair, Ford Foundation; trustee and immediate past chair, Kresge Foundation; trustee, Washington Center; trustee, independent sector, and vice-chair, Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Center.

Other positions held by Ms. Hirano Inouye over her lifetime included chair, board of directors, American Association of Museums; board member, National Trust for Historic Preservation; member, national board, Smithsonian Institution; member, diversity advisory board, Toyota Corporation; member, business advisory board, Sodexho Corporation; member (presidential appointment), President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and chair, California Commission on the Status of Women. She was married to the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii.