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About the Lealtad-Suzuki Center for Social Justice

The Lealtad-Suzuki Center for Social Justice is named after Catharine Deaver Lealtad (Class of 1915), the first African American graduate of Macalester College and a talented doctor; and Esther Torii Suzuki (Class of 1946), a survivor of the Japanese internment camps during WWII and a six-year member of the Macalester College Alumni Board. The Lealtad-Suzuki Center for Social Justice is located on the first floor of Kagin Commons.

    About the Center’s Namesakes

    catharine lealtadDr. Catharine Deaver Lealtad

    The late Dr. Catharine Deaver Lealtad, Macalester College’s first African American graduate, earned a double major degree in chemistry and history in 1915 with highest honors.

    After graduation, Dr. Lealtad taught for a year in Columbus, Ohio, and then moved to New York City to work for the YWCA and the Urban League. She was accepted into Cornell University’s medical school, but left shortly after her arrival due to the racial prejudice at Cornell. She went on to study medicine in Lyon, France, where she received her medical degree from the University of Paris in 1933 specializing in pediatrics.

    When World War II began, Dr. Lealtad was commissioned as a major in the U.S. Army and went to Germany in 1945 to supervise medical services for children that had been displaced due to the war. One year later, she went to China with the U.S. Public Health Service to assist the Chinese doctors in fighting the cholera epidemic that was sweeping through China at that time.

    Upon returning to the U.S. at the close of WWII, Dr. Lealtad worked at Sydenham Hospital, the first voluntarily interracial hospital in New York. Although Dr. Lealtad retired in 1979, she continued in her efforts to serve those who had limited access to medical care. She worked for two years at a mission hospital in Puerto Rico and for seven years at a free clinic for the underprivileged in Mexico City. In 1983, Dr. Lealtad created an endowed scholarship at Macalester College.

    The only person to receive two honorary degrees from Macalester, Dr. Lealtad passed away in 1989.

    esther torii suzukiEsther Torii Suzuki

    The late Esther Torii Suzuki came to Macalester College in 1942 at the age of 16 from a Japanese detention camp in Portland, Oregon, where she was released specifically because of her acceptance to Macalester College. The first Japanese-American student at Macalester, Ms. Suzuki graduated from Macalester in 1946 with an honors degree in sociology.

    In the years following her graduation, Ms. Suzuki played many roles: community leader, volunteer, activist, and mentor. As a social worker for Ramsey County, Ms. Suzuki spent most of her career participating in civil rights groups and developing programs specifically to assist the Southeast Asian-American population. Later in her life, Ms. Suzuki established herself as a storyteller and writer and gave a voice to both the hardships and accomplishments she had encountered as a Japanese-American.

    Ms. Suzuki also served for six years on the Alumni Board at Macalester and continued to volunteer both at Macalester and in the St. Paul community. She contributed a chapter to the book Reflections: Memoirs of Japanese American Women in Minnesota and co-authored a play in 1991.

    Awarded the Macalester College Alumni Service Award in 1999, Ms. Suzuki passed away that same year.

    Catharine Deaver Lealtad and Esther Torii Suzuki received the Macalester College Board of Trustees Award for Meritorious and Distinguished Service on September 13, 2002.