November 22, 1928–August 22, 2016
Peter T. Suzuki was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 22, 1928, and died in Omaha, Nebraska, on August 22, 2016. He held many degrees in anthropology, a BA (1951) and MA (1952) from Columbia University and a M Phil (1955) and PhD (1959) from Leiden University in the Netherlands, with his dissertation titled “The Religious System and Culture of the Nias, Indonesia.” Beyond his native English, Suzuki was multilingual with some degree of proficiency in Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Turkish. Suzuki taught at universities in Turkey, Crete, and West Germany before joining the faculty of the University of Nebraska in Omaha in 1973, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 2002.
Among courses in anthropology and a diversity of other subjects, Suzuki taught interdisciplinary seminars in urban studies and for many years he served as Chair of Urban Studies. In 1983, he was honored with the designation of University of Nebraska Foundation Professor of Public Administration. Suzuki was a gifted, kind, and beloved teacher and mentor. Among other things, as a gourmet cook he prepared meals for international students in his home on holidays.
Suzuki was recognized internationally for his research on urban planning, ethnicity, race relations, gerontology, and many other subjects. He received a Fulbright Fellowship, two NATO Fellowships, and other awards during his career. He served as a consultant to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the US Army and Air Force, and the United Indians of Nebraska, among other organizations. Suzuki worked diligently to increase public awareness and understanding of Native Americans in the city of Omaha and on nearby reservations.
A very difficult period in Suzuki’s life was in 1942, when at 13 years old, along with his Japanese American family, he was confined in an internment camp of the US War Relocation Authority for two and a half years. This terrible and unjust experience is the source of his motivation for invaluable research and publications on the camps and related phenomena that appeared in the journal Dialectical Anthropology in the 1980s and his correspondence in Anthropology News in 2005, 2008, and 2010, and elsewhere. He revealed that among some 20 anthropologists who worked in the camps, some were unethical. He was deeply disappointed with his profession’s neglect of such facts, the failure of the AAA to acknowledge the issues and apologize, and the neglect in general of the subject of the camps and related matters. He believed that the internment camps were a gross violation of human rights and the AAA should also recognize that aspect.
In this and many other ways Suzuki will be well-remembered for his brilliance, humanity, integrity, morality, ethics, and professionalism. His life and work was devoted to promoting a better world through education. Toward continuing that goal, the Peter Suzuki Scholarship has been established at the University of Nebraska Omaha Foundation, 2285 South 67 St. #200, Omaha, NE 68106.
(Leslie E. Sponsel)
Cite as: Sponsel, Leslie E. 2017. “Peter T. Suzuki.” Anthropology News website, September 22, 2017. doi: 10.1111/AN.637