FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 13, 2009


Chris Komai - - 213-830-5648


Museum to Recognize Major Donors, Former CEO Irene Hirano at Annual Dinner

The Japanese American National Museum announced its 2009 program theme celebrating the opening of its Pavilion with year-long slate of public programs and special events that will review the work by the National Museum in the last decade. The first of these themed-programs is the National Museum’s 2009 Annual Gala Dinner, "The Pavilion: Home, Community, History—Celebrating Ten Years of Building a Legacy", which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel on Saturday, April 25.

When the Japanese American National Museum opened its 85,000-square-foot Pavilion on January 23, 1999, it culminated the efforts of a community to construct a new home for its history and a gathering place open to everyone. The Museum’s 2009 Gala Annual Dinner will bring recognition to those major donors who helped to build the Pavilion by permanently affixing their family names to the public spaces, and how their contributions have impacted a million Museum visitors since 1999, including thousands of K-12 students whose tours were led by the very individuals who lived through key moments in Nikkei history.

This year’s dinner theme celebrates a decade of projects since the Pavilion opening—including over 40 arts, cultural, and history exhibitions, hundreds of thought-provoking public programs, and engaging family festivals, concerts, and other special events—by recognizing the major donors who made it possible. It will also pay a special tribute to former National Museum President & CEO Irene Hirano, who led the institution for two decades. Many of the donors (or their families) who chose to name the galleries and major public spaces in the Pavilion have agreed to be recognized as part of the dinner program. They include:

George and Sakaye Aratani; Manabi and Sumi Hirasaki; Koichi and Toyo Nerio; Dr. Paul and Hisako Terasaki; Dr. Toshio and Chizuko Inahara; Reiso and Shizuka Miyamoto; Shoan and Shizuko Yamauchi; Takeo and Miyoko Yuki Family; Taul and Sachiko Watanabe; George Takei; Frank H. Watase; and Sig Kagawa.

"The Japanese American National Museum, and the Nikkei community in general, owes a great deal to the individuals and their families that we are recognizing at our Annual Gala Dinner," observed National Museum President & CEO Akemi Kikumura Yano. "They have been role models in terms of how they have prospered in their businesses, while consistently supporting community organizations like the National Museum. Our hopes are that each succeeding generation will follow in the footsteps of the Issei and Nisei generations, who built our communities through their hard work, determination, and philanthropy. This is the legacy we will celebrate at the gala dinner."

Hirano became the National Museum’s first Executive Director in 1988. Under her leadership, the National Museum renovated a former Buddhist temple in downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo for its headquarters in 1992, and then constructed its current facility, the modern Pavilion, which opened in 1999. The National Museum has organized several national conferences in places such as Little Rock, Arkansas, and Denver, Colorado, and reached out to educators from across the nation with teacher training and curriculum development, ensuring the Japanese American story is shared as part of U.S. history. In the 10 years since the Pavilion opening, the National Museum has also collaborated with Japanese government agencies on enhancing relations between Japanese Americans and Japan. It also expanded its Historic Building, creating the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy.

In 2008, Hirano stepped down as President and CEO of the National Museum and married U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye. Kikumura Yano became the new President and CEO, while Hirano has served as Executive Advisor to the institution. Hirano’s contract with the National Museum ends in as of July 1, 2009.

"The Japanese American National Museum is extremely grateful to Irene Hirano for her leadership over the past 20 years," said Ernest Doizaki, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum. "She presided over our institution when it went through several critical stages, including three major expansions. Today, the Board of Trustees, working with Akemi Kikumura Yano, intends to consolidate the many projects developed under Irene, while securing the Museum’s financial foundation by reducing its debt and enhancing its revenue opportunities. In this time of economic uncertainty, the Trustees are committed to working through the challenges today, so the National Museum will be stronger in years to come."

The 2009 Annual Gala Dinner Signature Sponsors are Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki. Sponsorships are available at Diamond ($25,000), Platinum ($10,000), Gold ($5,000), Silver ($3,500), Bronze ($2,500) and Community ($1.750, available to community non-profit organizations). Mr. Masaaki Tanaka, President and Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank, is the Dinner Chair. Co-chairing the dinner committee are Gene Kanamori and Ernest Doizaki.

For more information on the 2009 Annual Gala Dinner, contact the Japanese American National Museum at (213) 625-0414.