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OCA Mourns Loss of Ronald Takaki and Him Mark Lai


OCA Mourns Loss of Ronald Takaki and Him Mark Lai



28 May 2009


Sarah Smith Nester | Communications Manager


202 223 5500 |


Two noted scholars of Asian American Studies, Him Mark Lai and Ronald Takaki, recently passed away. Lai and Takaki  were trailblazers in the 1960s as new Asian American Studies programs burgeoned on the West Coast.  

Him Mark Lai was born in 1925 in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He co-taught the very first college course on Chinese American History with Phil Choy at San Francisco State University in 1969, and also taught the same course at University of California, Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies Department in the 1970s. He has written ten books on Chinese American life.

In 1991, Him Mark Lai and Albert Cheng created the In Search of Roots program to teach Chinese American youths how to research their family history through National Archives and Records Administration documents. Students also travel to China to visit the home of their ancestry. In 2003, the Ethnic Studies Library at UC Berkeley announced their “Him Mark Lai Collection,” Lai’s private research material, which he donated to the library.

Ronald Takaki, an author and historian, was born in 1939 in Hawaii. He is regarded as a key civil rights expert due to an unwavering dedication to educating on multi-culturalism in the US. Most recently, Takaki was a professor emeritus of ethnic studies at the UC Berkeley, and educator of U.S. race relations who taught Berkeley’s first black history course and helped dispel stereotypes such as the Asian American “model minority” myth. In 1972, Takaki accepted a teaching position at UC Berkeley where his course, “Racial Inequality in America: A Comparative Perspective,” led to the development of an undergraduate ethnic studies major and an ethnic studies Ph.D. program.

Perhaps his most famous book, “Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans,” examined the diverse history of APAs and is a template for many Asian American Studies students today. “Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th Century America" was critically acclaimed.

“Him Mark Lai and Ronald Takaki were pioneers of Asian American Studies who paved the way for Asian Pacific American inclusion and recognition. OCA is grateful for the contributions to education, and they will be sorely missed,” said OCA National President Ken Lee.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, OCA is a national organization dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans.

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