BLOG: Tomio Moriguchi — A gifted leader

By Assunta Ng

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Dicky Mar congratulates Robert Murray and Josephine Tamayo Murray at the Interim CDA gala, after Robert bid $2,800 and won a trip for two to Hawaii. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

Uwajimaya chairman Tomio Moriguchi is not all about business. He is a determined leader who fights for important causes for the community.

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Samoan dancers paraded down to the dining room at the Interim gala. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

Martha Choe, chief administrative officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, praised Tomio for his engagement with citizens in the community. Tomio’s community involvement is extensive. From culture to education, business to nonprofit, Asian to mainstream community projects, Tomio has done it all during his 40-plus years of dedication. He is passionate about making our community stronger and Asian Americans supporting one another.

Tomio knew a long time ago that leaders cannot lead alone. Partnership is key to the community’s growth and maturity. He and his friends, including Vera Ing, Bill Ishii, and many others, founded and served together in different community organizations. He was one of the founders and a board member of Nikkei Concerns, an organization that serves the varying needs of older adults and their families of Japanese and Asian descent through many facilities and services.

Tomio’s ability to build bridges is a rare gift. He loves to see the community creating a movement for different projects. Without him, there would be no Kin On (Chinese nursing home). He approached the Chinese community to lease the old home of Keiro, a Japanese nursing home. Before, no one in the Chinese community had thought about starting a nursing home. It was too big of an idea and investment for the community to dream of doing. Today, Kin On not only has a new facility, it has a long waiting list as well.

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Jenny and Tomio Moriguchi took home some nice artwork from Interim CDA. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

As one of the seven siblings of the Moriguchi family, Tomio isn’t the oldest son in the family. If not for his intelligence, temperament, and leadership, he wouldn’t be asked to lead the family business. He was the CEO of Uwajimaya for 30 years. Before he took over the business, he was a Boeing engineer. The family knew he could grow the business. But Tomio’s motivation was simple. He just wanted to help his parents who were working too hard.

Tomio is also generous. He supports many community causes. He would pledge as much as $100,000 to a nonprofit organization. I once served with him on the University of Washington Foster School of Business fundraising committee for the Asian American student scholarship endowment. He wrote a personal check for $5,000 for the event, in addition to buying a table and selling tables.

Outsiders might not be aware that Tomio owns the North American Post and the Soy Sauce. He’s a newspaper junkie. His wife once told me that he reads the Asian Weekly line by line from the front to the last page. And he even saves old copies of the Asian Weekly.

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An origami tree was the table centerpiece at the Interim gala. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

Congratulations to Tomio on his most recent award from the Interim-CDA first service award, which he received on April 12 at the Waterfront Marriott Hotel. Among his many accolades, the Northwest Asian Weekly named him as one of the most influential Asian Americans in the 20th century in Washington state, along with former Ambassador Gary Locke, the late Wing Luke, and 20 others.

LeadingAge of Washington will recognize Tomio’s accomplishments and leadership at its annual awards luncheon this June.

As Jeff Hattori, Nikkei Concerns CEO, praised his vision, intelligence, compassion, and humbleness, we also thank Tomio for his commitment, humor, and service above self. (end)

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