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Charles Y. Nakamura

Professor of Psychology, Emeritus

UC Los Angeles

1921 – 2008


Charles Y. Nakamura, Professor of Psychology, joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the clinical psychology program at UCLA in 1956 and retired in 1987. He was born in 1921 in Nebraska and attended high school in Van Nuys. He and his family were interned at Manzanar near Mount Whitney during World War II, a deeply troubling experience for him that perhaps colored many of his values and professional activities. He obtained FBI clearance and was allowed to go to Idaho to work in the potato and beet fields. After relocation, Chuck worked in the Midwest and eventually enrolled at the University of Wisconsin. His outstanding undergraduate record in psychology led him to Stanford University, where he earned his doctorate in 1956. When hired at UCLA he was one of the very few Asian-Americans on the faculty.


Most of Chuck’s early research focused on children’s behavior, learning, motivation, and performance, and he served a term as Associate Editor of Child Development. Later in his career his interests broadened to include research on alcoholism, and he also wrote papers on a variety of topics relevant to social issues, such as sexual harassment in the workplace, the interdependence of work and family roles, and child care policy. He served on the Advisory Committee of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA and on various NIMH training and fellowship review committees. In 1980 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also very active in departmental governance, including service for five and a half years as Vice Chair for Graduate Affairs and for six years as Director of Clinical Training.


Chuck is remembered with great warmth and gratitude as a teacher and graduate mentor, and as one who, in his role as director of the clinical psychology program from 1979 to 1985, initiated crucial and lasting changes in its organization, focus, and governance. As a teacher and mentor he was sincere, caring, and nonjudgmental with his students, and he encouraged them toward personal growth and involvement in social issues. He was known not only for enormous effort he expended in preparing for his lectures, but also for the time he spent attending to the needs and interests of individual students. He was twice nominated by the Department of Psychology for the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He kept in touch with his students, many of whom went on to academic leadership positions, and they turned to him for warmth and guidance. As program director, his colleagues in clinical psychology admired his efforts to develop participatory governance, a process that contributed to the transformation of a fine program into a great and diverse one through the involvement and collaboration of all faculty and students.


An uncommonly modest and kind man, Chuck was devoted to his family and to the care of those who needed him. He enjoyed sports, having played softball and later tennis, and was a dedicated fan of Bruin basketball and football. He was a passionate gardener, and a gift of his homegrown vegetables or flowers was a treasure. Married once, he had no children, and is survived by two sisters, three nieces, and many grand- and great-grand nieces and nephews and life-long friends.



Constance Hammen

Hector Myers

Department of Psychology