Alumni News

7 February 2022

Minoru Tamashiro

Entomology professor was mentor to leaders in the field

Minoru Tamashiro

Minoru Tamashiro, a long-serving CTAHR entomologist, World War II combat veteran, and devoted husband, passed on October 23 at the age of 97, joining his beloved wife Polly (Elaine), who passed in 2020. The following tribute is by his friend and colleague J. Kenneth Grace, PhD, Researcher Emeritus of the Dept. of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences:

Professor Emeritus Minoru Tamashiro was a ground-breaking termite control researcher, although he was very modest about his achievements. He always treated his students and staff like family, and was a real example of the saying, Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. He is known for developing the first commercial non-chemical barrier to ground termites, the Basaltic Termite Barrier. During the 1990s, this was the highest-earning patent in UH’s portfolio and has been used to protect state and federal buildings and many homes in Hawaiʻi.

Among his graduate students were Dr. Jack Fujii, UH Hilo Dean Emeritus; former U.S. Navy entomologist Dr. Stan Higa; Dr. Po-Yung Lai, who has had distinguished careers with the Hawaiʻi Dept. of Agriculture (Director), CTAHR (Associate Dean for Extension, and T-STAR Director), Taiwan’s National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (Director of the Institute of Tropical Agriculture), and the City and County of Honolulu; and Dr. Nan-Yao Su, Distinguished Professor at the University of Florida and inventor of the Sentricon termite-baiting system.

Minoru served with great distinction in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, including participating in the rescue of the Lost Battalion. See the UH FCU description of his time in the Army fighting courageously in Europe, including the many honors he received. In 2020, he was one of five Nisei veterans of WWII inducted into the French Legion of Honor, the highest civilian and military award bestowed by the French government. In contrast to these official descriptions, this is the description of his army career that Minoru included in his UH Curriculum Vitae:

Military Experience: U.S. Army, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 1943-1945. In a Private, out a Private First Class (Battlefield promotion. Actually the only reason I made PFC was that a combat soldier could not be lower than PFC). Landed in the can twice. Busted only once. Was a hell of a soldier.

Talk about modesty and not taking yourself seriously!

When I was hired by UH in 1989 after Minoru retired to carry on the research on termites and other urban pests, he was a tremendous help to me in establishing my research program and continued to come into UH to collaborate with me for the next 20 years. He taught me about Hawaiʻi and the history of termite infestations in the islands, introduced me to many key figures in politics and elsewhere (some of whom were former classmates), and was always ready to talk about termites, sometimes over a beer (Miller light, bucket of ice!). He was a sharp researcher and a joy to be around.

One of my favorite events every December was our annual holiday Retirement Luncheon held by his friends in Minoru’s honor every year since his actual retirement, from 1989 up until 2019. The party got a little quieter as we all got older, but it was always fun. I miss Minoru, and I’m very thankful for the time I spent with him.