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A Long Wait, But Worth It

Story by
Nancy Joseph
Yuki Sato

Yuki Sato

Yuki Sato always wanted to go to college. She finally got her wish—after retiring from a long career with the Social Security Administration. In 2001, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the UW at age 82. 

Why the long wait? Circumstances changed Sato’s path. 

After graduating from Seattle’s Garfield High School in 1936, Sato went to vocational school, then took a job with the Social Security Administration. Then, during World War II, she was sent to an internment camp. “I had a very understanding boss,” she says. “He put me on leave without pay rather than firing me, like so many others were.” 

Sato later resumed her work with the Social Security Administration, married, and raised her son alone after her husband’s death. 

When Sato retired in 1982, her nephew— then a recruiter in the UW’s Educational Opportunity Program—convinced her to apply to the University. She was accepted and took about one course each quarter (sometimes more, sometimes none) for nearly two decades before earning her B.A. in American ethnic studies. Sato graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organization. 

Now that she has graduated, will Sato take a break from the UW? No way. She plans to audit courses through the University’s Access Program.

“What am I going to do if I don’t go to school?” she says. “I enjoy being in class and I enjoy being with young people. I still have a lot of learning to do. As long as I’m able, I’ll keep taking courses.”