Rooted in Family and Farm

Couple posing along coast in Hawaii
Deb and Jon Sakurai-Horita at the coast near their home.

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

Over the decades, many CSU students have come from agricultural backgrounds. Cousins Deb Sakurai-Horita (B.S., ’74) and Chris Sakurada (B.S., ’74) grew up on farms near Ault, Colorado, and Scottsbluff, Nebraska, respectively. They both used their CSU education in unanticipated and creative ways.

Deb Sakurai-Horita at her home in Hilo, Hawaii
Deb Sakurai-Horita at her home in Hilo, Hawaii

Sakurai-Horita visited campus through high-school activities, including Future Homemakers of America, in which she served as state president. She chose to attend CSU because of its outstanding nutrition program. After graduating in vocational home economics education, she traveled to Hawaii to visit friends and ended up staying. She worked multiple “get-by” jobs before being hired to teach “Bachelor’s Survival and Basic Foods” as well as provide financial reports for the home economics department at Kamehameha Schools. She met Jon Horita, and after they were married the pair moved to San Francisco to pursue graduate degrees, an M.B.A. for her and an Ed.D. for him. The couple stayed in the Bay Area after completing their degrees.

She spent her career in human resources, recruiting engineers and later developing extremely effective executive search methods. Her impressive performance landed her a “dream-job ex-pat assignment” as international human resources director for Aspect Communications, covering Europe and Asia. She lived in London for three and a half years, covering Europe and traveling to Malaysia, Australia, Japan, and China. When she returned to San Francisco, she worked as human resources director for several high-tech firms, including Quantum, Aspect Communications, United Airlines, and Wells Fargo Bank. Looking back, she feels “very blessed to have the work career I had.” After retirement, the Sakurai-Horitas built a home in Hilo, Hawaii, where they enjoy “a bit of paradise.”

Chris Sakurada
Chris Sakurada

After graduating in food science and nutrition, Sakurada developed an impressive career in sales. She started in Denver, eventually working for Xerox. She made trips to the Xerox campus in Leesburg, VA, where she was taught products and sales skills. After meeting Steve Jobs at an Apple Expo training event, she became excited to move to the Silicon Valley. Once there, she continued to work for Xerox, then for Corvus Systems, and later for Canon USA. These positions involved a great deal of travel, which she very much enjoyed. Sakurada eventually moved back to Denver as district sales manager for Canon USA, in charge of six western states. Later she moved to Fort Collins and after some time spent as a banker, she served as assistant vice president for Norlarco (now Canvas) Credit Union.

These two cousins are Ram proud. Their combined families include over a dozen CSU alumni as well as an aunt and uncle who worked at CSU many years ago, Phyliss Sakurada at the CSU preschool and husband Shogi at the CSU farm.

The Sakurada family purchased a brick at Canvas Stadium

These wonderful women both credit CSU with teaching them how to be structured and organized as well as the importance of continuing to learn and research. As Sakurada explains, “don’t get caught up in ‘I can’t do … because I don’t have ….’” Sakurai-Horita says her CSU degree “taught me to be resourceful, to adapt the science methodology used in the foods/nutrition labs to create an extremely successful recruiting method.” She also notes: “I am a firm believer that when you value culture, talent, and people around you, you create a great learning environment for life.”