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ASU legend Bill Kajikawa passes away

February 15, 2010

William (Bill) "Kaji" Kajikawa, a legendary former football, basketball and baseball coach at Arizona State, passed away Monday morning, Feb. 15.

Kajikawa, who was 97 at the time of his passing, is survived by two daughters – Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson, senior vice president, secretary of the university and president of the ASU Alumni Association, and Carol O'Connell of Mission Viejo, Calif.

Kajikawa began his coaching career at Arizona State in 1937 and retired from ASU in 1978. He began coaching the Arizona State Teacher's College freshman football team in 1937, when the players were known as the Bulldogs. During his tenure, Kajikawa watched the Bulldogs become the Sun Devils in 1946, and he saw his alma mater gain university status in 1958.

Before retiring in 1978, Kajikawa had worked as the freshman football coach under nine ASU head football coaches. In addition, he served as head basketball coach from 1948 to 1957, and he was head coach of ASU's club baseball team from 1947 to 1957. He was inducted into the Arizona Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968 and the ASU Hall of Distinction in 1982.

During World War II, Kajikawa took his only hiatus from ASU to serve with distinction in the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd, manned entirely by Japanese Americans, was the Army's most decorated combat unit.

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in education from ASU in 1937 and 1948, respectively, and he played on the varsity football team while he was an undergraduate. Kajikawa received an honorary doctor of laws degree from ASU during the summer 1989 commencement ceremony.

Kajikawa, who was a professor emeritus of physical education at ASU, was recognized on April 6, 1995, in a ceremony that named the Sun Devil football practice field The Bill Kajikawa Practice Facility.

He was inducted into the Arizona Historymakers.

A Tempe resident, Kajikawa also devoted countless hours to community service. For his work, the American Legion selected him in 1976 for the Americanism Award for service to young people. He and his late wife, Margaret, were honored with numerous community appreciation awards, including the Dorothy Mitchell Humanitarian Award from Tri-City Catholic Social Service and the Don Carlos Award from the Tempe Community Council. Also, they received the Award of Excellence from the ASU Alumni Association.

His daughter, Christine K. Wilkinson, served as the interim director of athletics at ASU in 1995-1996 and again in 2000. Wilkinson is the senior vice president and secretary of the university and the first person to hold this position at ASU. She also holds the position of president of the ASU Alumni Association.