Well-known NDSU administrator was also Pelican area ‘lake guy’
dedicated to water stewardship
A Japanese-American guy who was behind bars during World War II; went on to a science and administration career at North Dakota State University; and spent nearly half his life a seasonal “Pelican Laker,” has died.
Jim Sugihara crammed a lot of life into the last century. Actually, a century-plus-one, to be more precise.
The longtime dean of the College of Chemistry and Physics at NDSU, died Nov. 12, at the age of 101.
He’s been the subject of enumerable honors and tributes in connection with his years at NDSU, dating to the early 1960s.
But around the lake country, Sugihara was also known as a dedicated steward of waters, with a home on Pelican Lake since 1982. In fact, his 100th birthday party was hosted at the Muddy Moose in Pelican Rapids, where nearly 100 people greeted the Centenarian.
In 1998, he was asked to take on the role of Pelican Lake Property Owners Association president–at a time when lake water quality, the “lake movement,” and invasive species, like zebra mussels, were of heightening interest across the state and nation.
“It’s a peculiar kind of feeling to be a lake person that perhaps only we might understand, and sometimes it’s hard to explain. It’s also the best investment I’ve ever made in my life,” said Sugihara of his lake property, in a 2018 article by Kathy Borge.
His sentimental connection to the Pelican lakes area was shared by both him and his late wife. “It’s also a general kind of feeling that you’re always partly in vacation mode,” said Sugihara.
As a young college graduate, Sugihara was among thousands of Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps during World War II.
It was at the Utah relocation camp where he met May Murakami, whom he married in June 1944. His wife died July 17, 2014.
Despite the tragic setback, Sugihara embarked on a highly successful academic career, first at the University of Utah and then at NDSU.