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Born in Tokyo, Japan, Mr. Konoshima’s family immigrated to the United States when he was six years old. He was a student at the University of California – Berkeley, when he and his family were relocated to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming during World War II. After the war, he received a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1953, and a MA in Education from New York University in 1960. In 1976, he became the New York labor coordinator for the Presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter, and went on to join the national Carter-Mondale campaign as labor liaison. After the election, Mr. Konoshima became the National Director of the Asian Pacific Affairs Unit of the Democratic National Committee. He accompanied Vice President Walter Mondale to Japan, and traveled to Japan and Korea with President Carter. He played a key role in the historic visit of Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping to the United States in 1978, traveling with him to New York, Houston and San Francisco. In 1979, Mr. Konoshima co-founded, with his colleague Esther Kee, the U.S.-Asia Institute. During his tenure as President of the U.S.-Asia Institute, Mr. Konoshima personally escorted Members of Congress on visits to the People’s Republic of China, as well as Congressional staff delegations. Mr. Konoshima led more than 85 Congressional staff and trade delegations to China, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. He also hosted seven international conferences in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, and a multitude of briefings on issues of interest and concern to the U.S. and East Asian nations. Mr. Konoshima was an advisor to political, business and diplomatic leaders on both sides of the Pacific. Joji Konoshima passed away on September 17, 2003. The Konoshima Family established the Joji Konoshima Memorial Fund to continue his legacy with the US-Asia Institute.
Esther G. Kee is a co-founder, trustee and president emeritus of the US-Asia Institute. Mrs. Kee has a long history of community, political and international service and leadership. With the late Joji Konoshima, Mrs. Kee participated in the official White House ceremonies welcoming Deng Xiao Ping on his historic visit to the United States. Additionally, she coordinated his trip throughout the United States, and accompanied the delegation to the U.S. cities. More recently, she was a guest at the White House welcoming ceremony and luncheon honoring Chinese President Hu Jintao on his visit to the United States. In 1979, Mrs. Kee and Mr. Konoshima founded the US-Asia Institute to work more closely with Asian nations and to open an informal dialogue between government and private sector leaders with these countries, especially China. In the mid-1980s, Mrs. Kee worked with the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs to establish the Congressional staff delegations to the People’s Republic of China. To date, 77 of these trips have been organized to China, 11 to Japan and 10 to ASEAN. Mrs. Kee has been active in a variety of community activities in New York City including the Chinatown Planning Council, the Chinatown YMCA, the YMCA Camp Council of Greater New York and other civic organizations. She has served on the Presidential Ambassadorial Selection Board, the Selection Board of the State Department, the Advisory Board for Channel 13, the Board of Directors of the Community Service Society of New York and the Executive Committee for the Democratic National Committee. She has raised millions of dollars for local, state and national organizations, candidates and causes. She organized the Asian/Pacific American Women’s delegation to the International Women’s Year conference in Houston, Texas and is active in numerous Asian American and women’s groups.