July 16, 2019

On July 9, former School of Social Work associate professor, tireless supporter of Seattle’s Asian and Pacific islander communities, and dedicated student mentor Anthony Hideki Ishisaka died unexpectedly and peacefully at home in his sleep. He was 75 years old. 

As the School’s associate dean for academic affairs, Ishisaka helped create the School of Social Work’s first service-learning opportunities with communities of color in the Seattle area. 

He also developed innovative training programs that enhanced the skills of social workers serving Southeast Asian refugees. He was the co-founder of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization offering behavioral health and human services for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other King County community members.

In 2003, Ishisaka was recognized for the importance of his community-based work when he was selected to receive the prestigious University of Washington S. Sterling Munro Public Service Faculty Award. The award honors faculty members who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in community-based instruction, including service learning, public service internships and community partnership projects.

“Tony was family to so many of us,” said Edwina S. Uehara, Professor and Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work. “He was the most brilliant, well-read, wickedly funny, deeply caring, insightful and honest human being I’ve ever met. His innumerable contributions to the School and the community, his unflagging mentorship of hundreds of students, and his love of life, family and friends are unparalleled.”

As a faculty member, Ishisaka was a leader in multi-ethnic practice, with a focus on mental health and services targeted to refugee communities. In 2008, the School of Social Work awarded Ishisaka its Living Human Treasure Award for his “creative genius, embodiment of cultural identity and values cherished by the School community, and enrichment of all our lives.”

Ishisaka received his MSW from University of California, Berkeley, in 1968. He began his tenure at the School of Social Work in 1972 where he taught such courses as International Social Work and Globalization, Development of the Minority Child and Social Work with Refugees.

He is survived by his spouse Joanne, their two daughters Toshiye and Naomi, and a granddaughter, Eveline. A community memorial service is planned for Sept. 14 at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park, Seattle. 

At the request of the family, in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Anthony Hideki Ishisaka Endowed Memorial Fellowship, a UW School of Social Work fund established to honor Ishisaka’s work in the areas of child and family welfare, mental health and services to refugee communities. A memorial celebration is scheduled for Sept. 14, from 1 – 4 p.m., Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.  For details about the event and to RSVP, go here. 

Related Article

UW professor Anthony Ishisaka was ‘great humanitarian,’ co-founder of Asian Counseling and Referral Services The Seattle Times, Aug. 2, 2019