Local civil rights leader Alan Sugiyama died Monday at the age of 67 after a two-year battle with cancer.
He emerged as a leader in the Asian-American rights movement at a young age, co-founding the Oriental Student Union at Seattle Central Community College.
Bob Watt was friends with Sugiyama for almost 40 years. He sees the lasting impacts of his friend’s activism in Seattle.
Watt: “He was a leader in helping some of the biggest institutions in Seattle — the community college, the University of Washington — recognized the need to pay fundamental respect and attention to the needs of Asian-Americans. Sometimes he did that by demonstrating, sometimes he did that by negotiating, but always he did it with a positive spirit and a determination that was fierce.”
After leaving school, Sugiyama founded the Center for Career Alternatives, a job training program for low-income communities.
He was also the first Asian-American elected to the Seattle School Board.
Later in life he ran the Executive Development Institute, a leadership training program that aims to get minority leaders into corporate fields.
Ron Chew, the executive director of the International Community Health Services foundation, said Sugiyama's fierce determination to help others remained with him until the end, even during his battle with cancer.
While undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Sugiyama showed up to walk in a 5k fundraising event for International Community Health Services.
"He dragged himself and a bunch of his friends out and did the event. He was tenacious, he says this is something that's important to me, health care access is important to me, so I'm going to go out and do this," Chew said.