The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s 13th Annual Distinguished Alumni and Service Awards Banquet was held on Feb 22. Honored as this year’s Distinguished Alumni are Bishop Eric Matsumoto, Dr. Larry Kimura and Ms. Valerie Takata. The Distinguished Service honoree is Mr. Gerald De Mello.
Eric Matsumoto is the 16th Bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaiʻi, the state’s largest Buddhist denomination. He is the third youngest minister in the history of the mission to assume the title of bishop. Born and raised in Honaunau on Hawaiʻi island, he is a graduate of Konawaena High School and a recipient of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship.
Larry Kimura is recognized as the grandfather of the movement to perpetuate the use of Hawaiian language in modern Hawaiʻi, and has a PhD in Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization. As an assistant professor of Hawaiian language and culture, Kimura has spent 20 years creating audio documentation of the last native Hawaiian language speakers.
Valerie Takata is the Hawaiʻi Department of Education complex area superintendent for the Hilo and Waiakea Districts. Prior to her appointment in February 2002, Takata served as Hawaiʻi district superintendent and deputy district superintendent. During her administration at Keonepoko Elementary School, she was selected as the Hawai’i National Distinguished Principal.
Gerald De Mello is the former director of university relations at UH Hilo, a position he held for 21 years. He previously taught sociology for 15 years at UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College, where his efforts were recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award. Following his tenure as an educator, De Mello was East Hawaiʻi administrative assistant to former Governor John Waiheʻe.