A former Food Research Institute (FRI) scientist and his family have bestowed CALS with a gift that will offer long-lasting support for graduate students as they work toward new discoveries.
Hiroshi Sugiyama, better known as “Sugi” to many, came to UW–Madison in 1961, following FRI as it moved from the University of Chicago. In addition to his work as a principal investigator at FRI, Sugi taught food science classes. He remained at UW–Madison until his retirement.
Sugi’s first passion was research. He made his main contributions in the area of botulism (a form of poisoning from Clostridium botulinum and similar bacteria that can thrive in canned foods), which he studied for the entirety of his career. His devotion to increasing our understanding of food-related problems — and our capacity for solving them — inspired Sugi and his wife, Yuri, to create an estate gift for CALS.
The Sugiyama gift became available as a fund to support CALS after Yuri died in 2019. Sugi preceded her in 2006. Though they’ve passed away, they are remembered fondly by their daughters, Gayle and Linda Sugiyama, who have honored their father’s legacy with gifts of their own to the fund.
Called the Hiroshi and Yuri Sugiyama Fund for Graduate Studies, it is dedicated to supporting CALS graduate students.
“I think that my father’s experiences during the period before World War II are among the reasons he so strongly supported graduate education,” Linda says.
After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Sugi aimed to become a doctor of medicine. But no medical schools in California would admit a Japanese-American at the time. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942; shortly after, his mother and younger siblings were sent to internment camps. After the war, Sugi was able to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago on the GI Bill, and this propelled him into a career in public health and, eventually, brought him to UW.
The Sugiyama fund has arrived at a crucial time. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — and the disruptions it created for research — many graduate students are in need of financial support as they work to get their studies back on track.
At the beginning of the pandemic, CALS faculty, staff, and students transitioned to a remote working environment. During that time, Bill Barker, associate dean for research and graduate programs, had to work with researchers to quickly find a way to continue caring for the research organ- isms and animals. After this, only certain research projects deemed essential resumed, and they were limited by social distancing and other protective measures. The scenario was unprecedented.
“I can’t think of anything even remotely like this ever happening,” Barker says.
It has been well over a year since the pandemic brought everything to a standstill, but Barker and others have been hard at work getting everyone safely back in the lab. The Sugiyama gift, in addition to other ongoing efforts to support CALS grad students, should be able to provide some welcome relief in the near future. Although the logistics of the fund are still in the works, it is hoped that the money will become available to students for the 2021–22 school year.
“You have to be brave,” Barker says. “And I think our grad students have been super brave.”