Elizabeth Asahi Sato, 2008 Woman of Achievement

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Elizabeth Asahi Sato, 2008 Woman of Achievement

Elizabeth Sato, 2008 Woman of Achievement

In a world where everyone wants to be heard, Elizabeth is a breath of fresh air, because she wants to listen….And in a world where racial inequality still rears its ugly head, Elizabeth is there to fight against injustice and to fight for racial conciliation.”  That’s how one of her nominators described 2008 Woman of Achievement Elizabeth Asahi (Rising-Sun) Sato. 

Born in Yokohama, Japan, Elizabeth was raised in Portland with two brothers and four sisters.  The family often struggled to make ends meet and felt the burden of racial inequality. 

“My father was born in the early 1900s and grew up very poor, so he instilled in us the importance of working hard and being a person of integrity,” she said.  “My mother always told us that we were smart and had value.  She gave us a sense of personal pride.”   

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While in high school, Elizabeth became a volunteer for the Oregon Public Welfare Division, mentoring young girls whose mothers were on public assistance.  After graduating from Portland’s Parkrose High School, Elizabeth was accepted at the University of Oregon in Eugene where she took on an active role within the university and the community.  She served on the Commission for the Rights of Minorities and worked as a counselor and mentor for inner city youth and migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

Oregon Governor Victor Atiyeh took notice.  After reading about Elizabeth’s accomplishments in a Eugene newspaper, he appointed her to the State Board of Education.  She was just 19. 

Elizabeth expanded her studies through Oregon State University’s overseas program at Waseda University in Tokyo, focusing on international and global relations.  After marrying, working and while raising her children, Elizabeth resumed her studies and graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in ethnic studies.

Elizabeth’s diverse work experience includes her role as an educational consultant for the Interface Center for Equity and Vice President of Operations for a major medical device distributor. In Vancouver, she served as Executive Assistant to the President at Clark College and Executive Director for Wiconi International, serving native and indigenous communities.  Today, she runs her own consulting company, “Rise to Excellence,” headquartered in Camas.

She has volunteered locally for groups including the Camas High School Boosters and Friends of the Camas Washougal Community Center.  She has served on a variety of nonprofit boards throughout her life, such as Mending Wings Ministries, and volunteered for local nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity and the Women of Leadership group of the Murdock Charitable Trust. 

A single mother, Elizabeth says her most significant accomplishment is “raising my three sons – Gabriel, Samuel and Elijah – to be compassionate, thoughtful and gentlemen in every sense of the word.”

Elizabeth said, “My life has been filled with challenges of overcoming insurmountable odds.  Growing up as a person of color and woman during a time when glass ceilings were sometimes ironclad shut can be daunting.” 

She added, “I value and treasure my role as a mentor (elder) in the Native community and as a leader in our local community.  I want other women, particularly young women, to know that they too can achieve a great deal if they embrace their gifts and believe in their capability. 

“No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, you can overcome any odds if you truly believe you can,” she added.  “You can overcome and excel if you understand that there have been many before you whom you can call upon for guidance and many ahead of you who will learn – from you.”

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