This Wednesday is the last day of class, and it is only fitting that I will end my class on Asian Americans and Education by having the students read Don Nakanishi’s classic, “Why I Fought.”
Don’s passing leaves such a hole in the universe. He was my adviser’s adviser and paved the way for so many at UCLA and nationally, Asian Americans and other. I had the privilege of working with Don on the 2007 “Beyond Myths” report and always appreciated his steady, calming presence. I remember emailing him when I was brand new at UCLA and meeting with him to talk about what would become AANAPISIs (AAPI Serving Institutions), and his encouragement in studying the movement for a designation. My favorite Don memory was seeing Jennifer Yee, yet another Don mentee, be assigned to play the role of “Don” when students in our Asian Americans in Education course at UCLA had us re-enact Don’s tenure battle. She played him spot on–the calm, the pauses, the thoughtfulness, the humor. Last year I emailed him for some insight and he wrote back right away, generous as always with his words and time.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone who had as much relational capital as Don. So many people would have done anything for him in a heartbeat. I don’t think his job paid much, but he was rich in so many ways.