VIU awards honorary degrees to local philanthropist and award-winning author

Randle and Masako

Randle Jones (left) and Masako Fukawa will receive honorary degrees from VIU this month.

June 13, 2023 - 4:00pm

Masako Fukawa and Randle Jones will receive honorary degrees during VIU’s convocation ceremonies June 22 and 23.­­

Vancouver Island University (VIU) will award two people who have had a significant impact both locally and nationally with honorary degrees during convocation ceremonies this June.

Educator and anti-racism activist, Masako Fukawa, and businessman and philanthropist, Randle Jones, will each receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws during VIU’s convocation ceremonies on June 22 and 23. Both Fukawa and Jones have deep connections to VIU and the local community. 

Masako Fukawa believes that if we do not redress historic wrongs, the same racist attitudes and actions will be repeated against others. Born in Prince Rupert, Fukawa was forcibly relocated as a child to an internment camp in Greenwood, BC. After retirement, she dedicated considerable time to documenting these racist acts of government on Japanese Canadians through books and educational resources for museums as well as teachers and students.

She co-authored Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War with Pamela Hickman in 2012. Her book Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC’s Japanese Canadian Fishermen, co-authored with her husband Stanley Fukawa, was awarded the Canada-Japan Literary Award by the Canada Council. She has developed numerous resources for the BC Ministry of Education and maintains a website, Her lifelong commitment to justice and the telling of the truth continues. Currently she serves on the Education Advisory Board of the Japanese Canadian Legacies initiatives of the BC government to redress these injustices. This work stems from an apology by the Premier of BC along with a commitment to fund legacy initiatives. Fukawa was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for community service.

Fukawa’s connection to VIU runs deep. Since 2016, the Masako and Stanley Fukawa Scholarship and the Fukawa Excellence Scholarship have been awarded to students in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Fukawa, a teacher and then principal in Nanaimo school district, came to VIU (then Malaspina University-College) in 1995 to serve as Development Director, Secondary School with the International Education department. In this role, she developed The High School on the Nanaimo campus – an international school that still exists on campus today – and served as Founding Principal until her retirement in 1999. Her work included recruiting students and building relationships with parents and schools. Fukawa and her husband Stanley also taught at Obirin in Tokyo, a sister school to VIU, and initiated a teacher exchange.

Fukawa believes education plays a critical role in building healthier communities. “Teaching is never a neutral act,” she says. “All education is a political act. With knowledge and empathy, you have the power to be an integral part of creating a society you want to live in.”

As a business owner, volunteer and philanthropist, Randle Jones has been supporting Vancouver Island and BC communities for more than 50 years. Jones bought his first Windsor Plywood store in Surrey in 1965. Over the next several decades, he grew the business from a single store to a chain of 63 corporate and franchise locations across Western Canada and the Northwestern United States. Jones used a co-op style business model rather than a top-down approach, and all stores have a hands-on approach to management, emphasize a commitment to customer service and provide a large selection of specialty products.

In each of the communities served by a Windsor Plywood store, Jones, along with his wife, the late Fran Jones, worked hard to instill their values and devotion to the communities they serve. They encourage each of the stores to get involved with their local community and give back in a variety of ways. In 2008, they created a fund at the Vancouver Foundation – the Windsor Plywood Foundation. The Foundation launched the Book of Opportunities – a collection of pre-screened, innovative community projects across BC that are seeking support. Jones is also proud that more suggestions for projects come from the Windsor stores, such as a prostate cancer initiative from the Winnipeg store and the Red Deer and Edmonton stores teamed up to provide clean water for a village in Africa.

His impact on VIU includes supporting a variety of ongoing student awards, sponsoring the annual Milner Christmas Magic events at VIU’s Milner Gardens and Woodland, and supporting capital projects to help the University expand in key areas, such as the Centre for Health and Science and the Trades Discovery Centre, which bears the Windsor Plywood name. Richard Johnston, former president of Malaspina University-College describes Fran and Randle Jones as “the hardest working and most credible and generous of any volunteers I have ever met throughout my 30-plus years at Malaspina.”

Fukawa will be honoured at VIU’s 2:30 pm convocation ceremony on June 22 in the Nanaimo campus gymnasium. Jones will be recognized on June 23 at 2:30 pm. The events will be livestreamed on VIU’s Facebook page. Visit the VIU convocation website for more details.


Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Manager, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

The VIU community acknowledges and thanks the Snuneymuxw, Quw’utsun, Tla’amin, Snaw-naw-as and Qualicum First Nation on whose traditional lands we teach, learn, research, live and share knowledge.

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