News and Events Japanese Studies Resources About the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies
 UCLA alumnus, philanthropist, visionary honored
Dr. Paul Terasaki

UCLA alumnus, philanthropist, visionary honored

Dr. Paul Terasaki named Edward A. Dickson Alumnus of the Year

By Claudia Luther for UCLA Newsroom

Dr. Paul Terasaki has received the Edward A. Dickson Alumnus of the Year award. The honor was presented on campus May 4 on behalf of the ULCA Alumni Association during the UCLA Awards ceremony. 

Terasaki earned his bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA in the 1950s and went on to become an organ transplant pioneer, gave $50 million to the UCLA Department of Life Sciences in 2010 for construction of the Terasaki Life Sciences Building. The building holds  33 state-of-the-art laboratories for research in such fields as cell biology, neuroscience, genomics and stem cells. 

Several years earlier, Terasaki and his wife, Hisako, established the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at the UCLA International Institute. They also established the Nibei Foundation to encourage fellowship and partnership between Japanese and Japanese-American professors and doctors. 

In 1984, Terasaki, along with eight of his students, founded One Lambda Inc., which played a central role in the development and advancement of tissue typing, a procedure that assesses the compatibility of organ donors and recipients. He now serves as chairman of One Lambda's board and has continued with his research at UCLA. 

Terasaki was born into a poor immigrant family in Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood. At age 12, he and his family were forced to leave the city and were incarcerated in a Japanese American internment camp in Arizona for three years during World War II. He later returned to Los Angeles and at age 19 enrolled at UCLA as a transfer student. After earning his three degrees, he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to work in London for a year under organ transplant pioneer Peter Medawar, who later received the Nobel Prize.

Terasaki was promoted from researcher to professor of surgery at UCLA, a position he held from 1969 until 1999, when he retired. He continued his research and academic pursuits through the establishment of the Terasaki Foundation Laboratory in West Los Angeles.

A member of the World Health Organization and the British Transplantation Society, Terasaki has served as president of the International Transplantation Society and the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics.  

Terasaki received the UCLA Award for Professional Achievement in 1973 and the Medawar Prize from the International Transplantation Society in 1996. He is a member of both the UCLA Alumni Association and the UCLA Medical Alumni Association and has served on the UCLA Foundation board of governors (2001–04) and board of councilors (2004–07).