Seattle Central community members honored at Believe Gala

Three former employees and one alumnus were honored for their commitment to the college during the May fundraising event.

Two tables at Seattle Central’s 50th Anniversary Believe Gala were dedicated to former Seattle Central employees Rachel Hidaka, Frank Fujii and Mike Castillano, and former student Al Sugiyama. These individuals, who all passed away within the past year, made an impact on Interim Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tina Young when she first started at Seattle Central. She felt it was appropriate to acknowledge their commitment and legacy to Seattle Central and transforming education in Seattle and across the Puget Sound region. Below are Rachel, Frank, Mike and Al’s biographies:

Rachel Hidaka
(b. 1930 – d. 2016)
Associate Dean of Basic Studies (1972-1994)

Rachel was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. During the World War II, her father was interned, along with other Japanese Americans, and sent to the mainland while the rest of the family remained in Honolulu. After college, Rachel taught at several junior and senior high schools on Oahu, as well as evening English classes to immigrants. This was her first introduction to teaching English as a Second Language(ESL).

Rachel returned to education as an instructor in the English as a Second Language (ESL) department at Seattle Central College after her kids began junior high. For more than 20 years, Rachel headed the ESL program, rising to become associate dean of Basic Studies. During her tenure, Rachel’s deep sense of mission, nurturing spirit and fierce resolve grew the program to become the largest of its kind in the state and one of the top programs in the country.

Rachel passed away last summer.

Frank S. Fujii
(b. 1930 – d. 2016)
Director, Graphic Arts Department, Affirmative Action Officer (1972 – 1989)

Frank Fujii was born in Seattle’s Central District and was the youngest of nine siblings. During World War II, at the age of 12, Frank was incarcerated at Tule Lake Camp as part of the internment of Japanese Americans. After the war, he attended Garfield High School before enrolling at the University of Washington, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. Frank taught at Franklin and Cleveland high schools prior to teaching in the Graphic Arts program at Seattle Central College for 17 years. He also served as affirmative action officer at the college.

Over the years, Frank donated the artwork he created to the Wing Luke Museum’s annual art auction. An exhibition of his work was featured at the Wing Luke Museum in 1992. He also donated his talents to many Asian American organizations, including the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, which used a logo he designed to promote the effort to earn reparations for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. The circular logo incorporated an image of barbed wire and a graphic representation of the first, second and third generations. The redress effort, spearheaded by Japanese American activists in Seattle, culminated in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

Frank passed away last October at his home on Mercer Island.

Michael A. Castillano
(b. 1938 – d. 2016)
Director of Development (1984-1992)

Mike Castillano was born in Seattle and grew up in the Central District neighborhood. Mike held various leadership positions at Seattle Central, including assistant vice president for the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1984, he became Director of Development and served in the position until 1992. He was passionate and dedicated toward bettering the community, his students and family. His eldest daughter, Lisa Castillano Szilassy writes in his biography:

“Whatever Mike was doing, whether helping students, teaching an Asian Studies class, cooking, or gardening, he was first and foremost a scholar. Mike continued to study and learn throughout his life. He had notebooks filled with words translated into Spanish, Ilocano, Japanese and Hungarian. Other notebooks were filled with recipes, ideas for home decorating and remodeling, gardening ideas, and even recipes for organic bug sprays and fertilizers. He wrote copious notes to himself as he tried to work out whatever challenge he was facing. He kept up with developments in a multitude of academic fields and helped to advise students studying everything from medicine to pilot training, marketing to pastry school. He actively used his knowledge to help in any way he could, from teaching to cooking for loved ones, to creating a gorgeous Japanese garden at his home.”

Michael passed away last December.

Alan Sugiyama
(b. 1949 – d. 2017)
Co-founder of Oriental Student Union at Seattle Central; helped to establish Asian American Studies program (1968-70)

Al, as he was known, was born in Seattle and attended Bailey Gatzert Elementary, Washington Junior High, and Garfield High School, graduating in 1968. After high school, Al went on to Seattle Central Community College and then the University of Washington.

As a college student, Al led and participated in many different protests and demonstrations to call attention to issues of inequity and racism against Asian Americans. He co-founded the Oriental Student Union (OSU) and helped advocate for affirmative action hiring as well as American ethnic studies at Seattle Central and the University of Washington. He later went on to become one of many Asian American activists in the greater Seattle Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities. Al was the co-founder of the Asian Family Affair newspaper, founder and executive director of the Center for Career Alternatives (CCA) for 30 years, and the first Asian American elected to the Seattle Public School District board in 1989. He will be remembered as a loving dad, doting grandfather, loyal and lifelong friend to many, activist, and inspiration to many.

After a long and courageous battle with cancer, Al passed away in early January 2017.