Nobuo Renge's studies at the University of California at San Francisco were broken by war and fear.
Renge, like thousands of other citizens of Japanese heritage, was forced into an internment camp in 1942. The price -- one of many -- was his UC education.
Renge, a longtime pharmacist in Fresno, died years before anyone tried to right that wrong.
On Friday, UC San Francisco awarded honorary degrees to him and 67 other Japanese-American students whose careers were interrupted or cut short by World War II internment.
Mel Renge, who runs the family pharmacy in Fresno's Chinatown, attended on behalf of his father. He said there is "real symbolism" in the degrees.
The honorary degrees are part of a far-ranging campaign to honor a lost generation of Japanese-American students. California State University campuses, including Fresno State, also plan to award honorary degrees.
This summer, UC officials suspended a 37-year moratorium on honorary degrees to acknowledge the students. Diplomas bear the Latin phrase "Inter Silvas Academi Restituere Iustitiam," or "to restore justice among the groves of the academe."
More than 700 students were forced to leave four UC campuses, officials estimate. In total, about 120,000 people were forced into camps based on an executive order allowing the military to round up and imprison Japanese-Americans on the West Coast.
The order came a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Within UC, the idea to honor the students began at the San Francisco campus, which in 1942 operated schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy. The three other campuses also plan ceremonies to honor their students.
Some students recognized Friday have local ties. Officials did not make public a list but provided several names of students or families who gave permission to UC.
Many of the degrees were awarded posthumously.
Ellen Morgan, who works in Los Angeles, attended the ceremony on behalf of her aunt, Sumiko Matsumoto Sugiura, who died in 2006. Sugiura moved from the Fresno area to attend the San Francisco campus.
Later, in Pennsylvania, Sugiura earned a medical degree and ran a family practice for many decades, Morgan said. She didn't allow the wartime experience to derail her ambition.
"I always saw her as a strong human being who knew what she wanted, and said what she believed," Morgan said.
Isamu Saito was born and raised in Fresno, said his son, Gordon.
When the internment order came down in 1942, Saito hurried through his studies to complete a degree in dentistry.
He eventually started a practice in Fresno, working until his death in 1994.
Gordon Saito said his father regretted that he didn't have the chance to walk in his graduation ceremony.
"That was the one thing that always bothered him," Saito said.
Saito said he couldn't attend Friday's ceremony due to a commitment with his son. Mark Saito, a nephew of Isamu Saito, said he was happy to volunteer to go: "It is an extreme honor to finally be recognized."
Mel Renge, the son of Nobuo Renge, agreed. After the war, his father earned a degree at a pharmacy college in St. Louis, Mo.
He returned to Fresno to launch the business -- working there until he died in 2004, Renge said. He was proud to have attended UC San Francisco, and spoke more with regret than bitterness at the turn in his life.
He would have been proud of the honorary degree, Renge said.
"People asked me, are you going to go [to the ceremony]?" he said. "I told them I've got to go.
"It would have meant so much to him."
The reporter can be reached at cfontana@fresno bee.com or (559) 441-6312.