SAJCC’s Ross Iwamoto & Carolyn Classen receive awards at Pan Asian Community Alliance’s Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 29, 2020

Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition’s founder and 1st Director Ross Iwamoto was named Pan Asian Man of the Year, and SAJCC Editor (for 7 years) Carolyn Sugiyama Classen was named Friend of Pan Asian — at the Feb. 29 Pan Asian Community Alliance’s Lunar New Year celebration at the Tucson Marriott University Park Hotel, 880 E. 2nd St.

Ross served on the SAJCC Council from 2012 to 2016, and Carolyn is a Founding member of the SAJCC & is still currently on the Council.

Ross has also been active on PACA’s board, with the TUSD Pan Asian Studies Program and the So. Az Asian Pacific Islanders Health Coalition. Ross was the Director of a 2009 Asian American Pacific Islander conference in Tucson, bringing in his cousin Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Day author) as keynote speaker. Ross is Sansei (3rd generation Japanese American), from the island of Molokai, Hawaii. He also paints watercolors and has been included in a few United by Art exhibits at the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson.

Carolyn also served for one year on the PACA board, three years recently on the Community Council of APASA (Asian Pacific American Student Affairs), where she was awarded the 1st Community Builder award in 2018. She teachers students how to play mah jong every Friday during the academic school year. She founded Mah Jong Mondays at Himmel Park Library, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in January. Carolyn has also been a member/volunteer at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center since 2008. She is likewise a Sansei, from N. Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii.

SAJCC Editor Carolyn Sugiyama Classen and SAJCC Founder/1st Director Ross Iwamoto, with their awards, photo taken by Albrecht Classen

Some of the Japanese/Asian American past recipients of PACA awards were:

Dr. Henry “Hank” Oyama, Pan Asian Man of the Year 2005 (Educator/Vice President Emeritus at Pima Community College) He was interned during WWII at Poston Internment Camp.

M. Craig, Pan Asian Woman of the Year 2006 (founder of Tucson Origami Club, past President of Japan America Society of Tucson, founding member of SAJCC). M is half Japanese/half African American.

Karen Falkenstrom, Pan Asian Woman of the Year 2009 (founder of Odaiko Sonora taiko drummers, active on Tucson Japanese Festival committee and former SAJCC Treasurer – half Korean American/half Caucasian).

Dr. Sylvia Lee, Friend of Pan Asian 2014 (former President of PCC NW and elected to one six year term on Pima Community College Governing Board). Sylvia is of Japanese/Chinese/Caucasian ethnicity.

Mari Kaneta, Pan Asian Woman of the Year 2018 (founder of Japanese dance troupe Suzuyuki-Kai, owner of Yamato Japanese restaurant)

Congratulations to both recipients for these 2020 awards.

Ross and Carolyn, awardees — Professional photo taken by Myla’s Creations & Photography,, 520-906-2079.

4 thoughts on “SAJCC’s Ross Iwamoto & Carolyn Classen receive awards at Pan Asian Community Alliance’s Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 29, 2020

  1. Congratulations, Carolyn! Well deserved recognition. ,I appreciate your e-mails of Japanese American activities in Tucson and Southern Arizona. Congratulations to Ross also.
    From a former Pahoa, Hawaii youngster, now retired in Arizona.

    • Thanks for your good wishes about the PACA awards to Ross and me. Glad our website and listserve is of benefit to you. Mahalo to a fellow Big Islander.

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