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Heart Mountain mourns the passing of Dr. William Higuchi

William Higuchi signs a guest book at the University of Utah as he receives an honorary doctorate degree in May 2023. (Higuchi family and Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation)

CASPER, Wyo. — William Iyeo Higuchi, who was incarcerated as an 11-year-old boy from San Jose at Heart Mountain and who became a pioneer in pharmaceutical sciences, died Friday, May 10 at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was 93.

Born in San Jose, California, on March 16, 1931, Higuchi and his family were forced from their farm in San Jose and sent first to the Santa Anita Assembly Center and then to Heart Mountain, where they arrived on Sept. 13, 1942.

While a student in the camp’s high school, Higuchi first met his future wife, Setsuko Saito Higuchi. They later reconnected while students at the University of California at Berkeley, married and had four children, including Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi. 

William Higuchi’s 1949 San Jose High School senior class photo. (Higuchi family and Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation)

Higuchi built a storied career in pharmaceutical sciences and was a professor at the universities of Michigan and Utah, where he mentored hundreds of doctoral students from around the world. This support would lead to him being awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Ray with Neck Ribbon, from the Japanese government in 2012. 

In his later years, Higuchi was an active and generous supporter of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. 

“Like many Nisei of the Greatest Generation, my father never let his incarceration experience define him,” said Shirley Ann Higuchi. “When we began our work together to fulfill my mother’s dream of building ‘something’ at the Heart Mountain site, he told me that he’s ‘made it in life’ and now his job is to share his story so it never happens to anyone again.”

“Our hearts are heavy with the passing of William Higuchi, a man whose spirit will forever ripple throughout our work at Heart Mountain,” said Heart Mountain Executive Director Aura Sunada Newlin. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the Higuchi family as they grieve.”

The family requests that gifts be made in his memory to the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, 1539 Road 19, Powell, WY 82435 or at heartmountain.org.

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, a Smithsonian Affiliate, preserves the site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 through 1945. Their stories are told within the foundation’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell.

For more information, call the center at 307-754-8000 or email info@heartmountain.org.

William Higuchi stands next to the photo of him and his wife, Setsuko Saito Higuchi, in the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center in August 2011. He’s with granddaughter Adele Collier Dodd, grandson Bill Collier and daughter Shirley Ann Higuchi. (Higuchi family and Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation)

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