Irene Hirano Inouye
October 7, 1948 - April 7, 2020
Irene Hirano Inouye was selected by the Secretary of the Navy to serve as the Sponsor for USS DANIEL INOUYE (DDG 118). Prior to her passing on April 7, 2020, Irene established a strong bond with the ship and crew during traditional shipbuilding milestones at Bath Iron Works. At the keel laying in 2018, she welded her initials into the keel of the ship. In 2019, Irene broke a bottle of champagne on the bow in a christening ceremony bestowing the name on the ship. During a “mast stepping” ceremony, she placed items special to Senator Inouye in the ship’s mast. USS DANIEL INOUYE (DDG 118) will carry the spirit of Senator Inouye and Irene Hirano Inouye throughout its service in the fleet.
Irene was a national leader in both the philanthropic and museum sectors. She founded the U.S.-Japan Council in 2009, and built it into the premier organization it is today which focuses on fostering good will and friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. She was also a leader in philanthropy, community engagement, and advancing social causes, serving on a number of prominent non-profit boards, including as Chair of the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees, Smithsonian Institution Board of Governors and the Kresge Foundation. Irene previously served as President and founding Chief Executive Officer of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles from 1988 to 2008, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.
Irene and Senator Dan Inouye were married in May 2008, enriching each other’s lives until his passing in December 2012. Irene infused a special richness and fun, extending his lifetime with happiness in his autumn years.