Professor Emeritus Esther Masako Tateishi Sato passed away on October 20, 2014 at the age of 98. Sato began her career with the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) College of Education (COE) in 1964 as a student teacher supervisor and Japanese instructor in the University Laboratory School, and she retired in 1982 as a full professor of education in the Department of Curriculum Studies.
Born and raised on Maui, Sato studied, worked, and traveled broadly before returning to Hawaiʻi. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Williams Jewel College (Missouri), a master’s degree in science education from Columbia University, and a master’s degree in Japanese from UHM nearly 30 years later.
Sato worked to promote Hawai‘i as a bridge between East and West over the course of seven decades. In 1939, while employed as a private English tutor for the wife of the Japanese Consul in New York City, she participated in the first World’s Fair as a greeter at the Japanese Pavilion. Sato said this experience served as a catalyst for her mission to “encourage East-West exchange and cross-pollinate culture and knowledge in every way [she] could.”
Before her university career, Sato taught at Kawānanakoa Intermediate School and had already begun promoting Japanese language education through workshops, seminars, and pilot programs. Her series of widely used Japanese textbooks, teachers’ manuals, and student workbooks are used to this day in schools locally and nationally.
In 2008, Sato was decorated by the government of Japan with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for her accomplishments in national and public services and for promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the United States. The Order of the Rising Sun, established in 1875, is Japan’s first national decoration and one of their most prestigious awards. Administered by the Decoration Bureau of the Office of the Prime Minister, the award is given in the name of the Emperor.
At UHM, Sato was responsible for establishing the most popular summer study tour of Japan program, which ran from 1977 to 1990. In a letter to former COE Dean Andrew In, she wrote, “It has been a rewarding 18 years of experience to be associated with the College of Education, and I will cherish them always.” For years after her retirement, Sato would continue to advise the college’s International Exchange Program and to assist high school teachers from Keio University in their transition to living and studying in Hawai‘i.
“Esther Sato was one of the first people I met when I joined the college as a teacher and curriculum developer in CRDG,” Dean Donald B. Young said. “Esther was already well known for her development of the Japanese language curriculum in the Laboratory School. We later became friends and even in retirement, Esther was always a strong supporter of the college and the dean. Her grace and presence was always evident in the college’s special events. We will miss her.”
Services will be held at Hosoi Mortuary on Sunday, November 16 at 4:00 p.m.