Kay T. Dilena, professor emerita of business at San Francisco State University, has a personal link to the Japanese-American conflict in World War II: Dilena’s brother survived Hiroshima while her future husband survived Pearl Harbor.
To promote understanding between the two countries, Dilena recently announced plans to donate $5 million to S.F. State to establish the Dilena Takeyama Center for the Study of Japan and Japanese Culture. Her donation, from money she and her husband saved and inherited, is the University’s second largest gift from a private individual.
Dilena is among several female former professors who have become donors to their institutions in the Bay Area.
“I feel I owe it to this country,” Dilena said. Born in Tokyo, Dilena moved to the United States in 1953 and to San Francisco in 1962. “My hope is to help scholars of Japan to do any kind of research on Japan or aspects of Japan.”
The center will tackle a different focus of study every few years, from political science to language to arts and so on. The center will also support student exchange programs and host visiting scholars.
Dilena bequeathed her money to the university, but she also made an initial payment in December to kickstart the project. She has long worked to foster a relationship between S.F. State and Japan, organizing visits from Japanese corporations and contributing to a book, “Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima,” written by herself, husband James Dilena, brother Yasuo Takeyama and his American wife Janet Takeyama.
“She felt it was very important to try to build bridges because her own life symbolizes that,” said Sue Rosser, provost of S.F. State. “(The center) will bring to the campus all sorts of international scholars who focus on Japan and Japanese culture and will allow our faculty to interact with those folks.”
Dilena graduated from S.F. State’s undergraduate and M.B.A. programs, then returned to the school to teach in 1973 until retiring in 1988. She worried about teaching as a foreigner, but her adviser, husband and students encouraged her when she was one of few female professors at the business school.
Around the same time, the late Georgia Babladelis was working to find her place in academia as a professor of psychology at Cal State Hayward, now known as California State University East Bay. Babladelis, who died at 78 in 2009, left $520,000 to the university.
“Georgia came along when she had to fight for her rights — and Georgia always did,” laughed Joan Sieber, a former colleague of Babladelis. “She had a Greek temperament, and she could take anyone to the mat.”
Babladelis requested her donation go toward the nursing program she helped found because she saw it as an important source of upward mobility for women. She also founded the Women’s Studies department at the university and the academic journal, “Psychology of Women Quarterly.” The American Psychology Association recognized her efforts in 1992 when it honored her as one of the 100 greatest women in psychology.
During her 31 years as a professor, Babladelis sponsored needy undergraduate students, with a special affinity for women returning to school later in life after bad marriages.
“She wanted to mentor women of all ages and to help them find the level of independence and personal security that the world could offer them,” Sieber said.
Professor of Psychology
Donation: $520,055 to CSU East Bay.