The Sato Academy of Mathematics and Science officially dedicated its campus in honor of school namesake and former Long Beach Mayor Eunice Sato last week during a ceremony complete with traditional Japanese drummers and heartfelt speeches from school officials and Eunice’s son.
Sato Academy opened last fall on the former Hill Classical Middle School campus and now enrolls freshmen and sophomores. The school is modeled after the Long Beach Unified School District's nationally recognized California Academy of Mathematics and Science, or CAMS, located on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills.
“A great school deserves a great namesake, and we’re delighted that Eunice Sato agreed to lend her name to this school,” LBUSD Board of Education President Jon Meyer told an audience of about 500 students, parents, school staff and others who gathered on the school’s field on Back to School Night.
“Eunice’s life story is one of tremendous perseverance and service to her community,” Meyer said. “She’s widely known as a pillar of this city for her leadership and dedication to justice, equal opportunity and excellence in education. What a great inspiration and role model for our future engineers, mathematicians and scientists who attend this school.”
Eunice Sato, now 95 years old, was the daughter of Japanese immigrants. During World War II she was forced to flee to Colorado with her parents and siblings to avoid being interned by the U.S. government. She later graduated from the University of Northern Colorado and earned a master’s degree in education from Columbia University in New York. Sato subsequently taught school in Michigan and Yokohama, Japan before returning to California.
The four-foot, 10-inch wife and mother was a natural leader and quickly became a force in school and church organizations and the local Republican Party. In 1975, she was elected to the Long Beach City Council, serving until 1986. She and her fellow council members helped to turn around a city facing budget shortfalls and local economic depression.
While Eunice was not able to attend last week’s ceremony, her son, Douglas Sato, addressed the audience and reflected on his mother’s life.
“What are the takeaways from such a life? First, mother’s answer would be to endure with character and integrity,” Douglas Sato said. “Students, you will encounter obstacles that will require your passion and faith in yourself to endure the setbacks and disappointments in life’s journey. Use what you learn at this academy to build up your strength and determination to improve a world that needs help.
“And remember, no advancement or breakthrough in technology is done alone,” he continued. “It will take courage to push boundaries, but that is the only way progress is made. It takes leadership and collaboration – all traits Eunice Sato utilized and will be developed here at your wonderful academy.”
After leaving city politics, Sato served as president of the California Conference for Equality and Justice and on three state commissions as well as the National Advisory Council on Educational Research.
"I try to work wherever needed and to do my best to serve society," Eunice Sato said in an earlier interview. "And when you do that, you have no regrets."