A native of Japan, she moved to the United States after World War II in 1953 to join her brother, Yasuo Takeyama. While living in New York, Kay Takeyama married James Gotardo Dilena and became Kay T. Dilena. The Dilenas moved to San Francisco in the 1960s, where Kay Dilena attended San Francisco State University, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and a Master of Business Administration in Business Management. She went on to earn a Doctor of Philosophy from Golden Gate University. Dr. Dilena taught at San Francisco State as a Professor of Business from 1973 until she retired in 1988.
Though they would not realize it until much later, Kay, her brother Yasuo and her American husband James were symbolically linked by the violent circumstances of World War II. James was in the U.S. Navy and stationed in Pearl Harbor when Japan launched its attack on Dec. 7, 1941. He survived. In early 1945, the Takeyama family home in Tokyo was struck by an incendiary bomb dropped by a U.S. B29. Kay, Yasuo and other members of the family survived by seeking refuge in a backyard bomb shelter. Later in August, Yasuo, who was in the Japanese navy, survived the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, which helped end the war. Their lives became entwined after the war as they built their professional careers. Kay would become a college professor; Yasuo, a prominent journalist and economist; and James, a banker.
In 2010, Dr. Dilena made a $5 million legacy gift to San Francisco State University to establish the Dilena Takeyama Center for the Study of Japan and Japanese Culture. “I was born and raised in Tokyo during the war and then I came to this country,” said Dr. Dilena. “I got my education here, and I feel like I owe both countries. I have always worked toward promotion of better U.S.-Japanese relations, and I want to help future scholars in any way I can.”
In 2011, SF State inducted Dr. Dilena into the Alumni Hall of Fame.