By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Kyle Funakoshi (B.A., ’96; M.S., ’99) grew up in Fort Lupton and “found himself” during the summers of his high school years at CSU’s Upward Bound program. That experience provided him the confidence to pursue higher education and laid the foundation for a career devoted to others. This life member of the Alumni Association praises CSU for its welcoming environment and for giving him the freedom to explore his passions and understand his identity. Funakoshi says: “My degree is a privilege, and it comes with the responsibility to give back to the community. It is especially critical now as we face the great challenges ahead.”
When he enrolled at CSU, he became active in the Asian/Pacific American Student Association, serving as president. He also had a work study position at the Asian/Pacific American Cultural Center, where he “developed an understanding of what it was to be in a supportive community of color.” Being selected for the President’s Leadership Program helped him to better appreciate diversity in its myriad forms. He was named a First Generation Distinguished Scholar. Among his favorite memories are time spent at the beautiful Mountain Campus, where he did the ropes course, “jumping off of high places.” He attributes his success to his “CSU luminaries,” including Paul Thayer, Linda Ahuna, Barb Kistler, Phil Omi, and Keith Miser.
Funakoshi says his degrees from Colorado State opened several doors. His first positions were in advocacy centers at Washington State University, then at Edmonds College. Next, he served as Director of the Alumni Association at the University of Washington. There he had what he calls his “most profound experience,” helping to lead a graduation ceremony awarding honorary degrees to approximately 440 Japanese Americans who had been placed in internment camps during WWII. Multiple generations of each family attended. Several told Funakoshi this was the first time their elderly family member had spoken about their internment. The ceremony was replicated at several public universities across the west coast.
Currently Funakoshi is director of philanthropy for the National Park Foundation. He feels a special connection to national parks, as “every family vacation of my youth involved driving to a national park.” He recalls fighting with his sister during those drives, creating “an invisible line between us in the car.” But when they got to the park and their father gave them the park map, “that imaginary boundary disappeared” as the pair excitedly plotted a path through the park in order to “see everything important.”
While he enjoys national parks for their profound beauty and environmental conservation, Funakoshi believes the greater mission of national parks is “to tell America’s story, its rich and complicated history. The parks allow us to see our triumphs and challenges, inspiring us to be the best we can be.” He currently is helping raise funds to identify and tell stories of women in national park settings, which will be used to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Funakoshi, his wife Valerie, and their daughter Penelope live near Seattle, Washington. In his free time, he enjoys working on bonsai trees and tending to his garden.