About 40 Japanese-Americans brought memories of a heartwarming subplot from a cold chapter in American history to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln this weekend.
By all accounts at a reunion of those alumni, UNL welcomed Japanese-American students during World War II while many other universities rejected them.
Nora Maehara Mitsumori remembered sending letters seeking acceptance to numerous universities. Only the University of Nebraska (now the University of Nebraska - Lincoln) and the University of Arkansas accepted her, she said.
Mrs. Mitsumori, who lives in Pasadena, Calif., said the reunion enabled her and others to make a statement.
"We wanted to be able to thank Nebraska for taking us in, " she said. The university's kindness "restored (our) faith in people again because we had been hurt so much because we were Japanese."
University officials estimate that the school admitted 50 Japanese - American students who had been forced into internment camps by the U.S. government in 1942. The officials say 3,500 students were placed in schools around the country by the National Japanese Student Relocation Council, an organization that was sympathetic to their plight.
About 120,000 Japanese - Americans, both citizens and resident immigrants, were ordered into internment camps several months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The U.S. government in 1988 formally apologized and paid some compensation to internment camp survivors.
Tom Miya, 71, said numerous universities turned down his applications. The University of Nebraska was the only school that accepted him.
He met his wife, Midori, while at Lincoln. One college had sent her a rejection letter that referred to her as a "Jap."
Miya, who went on to become a faculty member in pharmacology and toxicology at Purdue University and the University of North Carolina, said he did not know why the university was open to Japanese - American students.
"It's just the character of the people, " he said. "It's something that you sense, you know? And it's very difficult to describe that."
The alumni frequently mentioned three people who were important to their stay at the university - Chancellor Chauncey Boucher; George Rosenlof, the registrar; and the Rev. Robert Drew, a Methodist campus minister.
Three of Drew's children attended the reunion. Mrs. Mitsumori said she approached one, Jeannette Drew Freeman of Seattle. "I spoke to her and I couldn't talk because I was crying, " Mrs. Mitsumori said.
Members of the group said Rosenlof and Drew welcomed them at the bus stop and train depot and helped them find housing when they arrived in 1942.
William Drew of Beverly, Mass., said his father steered some of the students to part - time jobs and found one a winter coat. Drew said the man still has the coat.
Mrs. Mitsumori said Rosenlof told her and her friends - Shizue Murashige, now of Honolulu, and Jeanne Namba Stanwood of Lihue, Hawaii - that Lincoln would be receptive to them. They appreciated the reassurance, she said, "because we were scared."
At a banquet Friday night in Lincoln, Miya wore a "Go Big Red" button. Among other activities, the group was scheduled to attend the Nebraska - Kansas football game Saturday.
Miya reflected on his bewildering relationship with this nation in the 1940s.
He said he graduated second in his Hanford, Calif., high school class in 1941 and received praise from a state bankers' association for an essay he wrote on the value of American citizenship.
The next year, the U.S. government ordered his family out of its home and into an internment camp.
In 1944, the U.S. Army drafted him while he studied in Lincoln. He did basic training in Arkansas, not far from the internment camp where his family had been relocated.
"There's really no time for bitterness, " he said. "And you play the cards that you get, and you play the cards full tilt, the best way you know how."