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Mayor Kim to headline spring commencement as keynote speaker

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Date: Monday, May 2, 2005
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

The Honorable Harry Kim, mayor of the County of Hawai`i, will
deliver the keynote address at the University of Hawaii at Hilo spring commencement on Saturday, May 14, at Hilo’s Edith Kanaka`ole Tennis Stadium. Commencement begins at 9 a.m.

A total of 412 students representing the College of Arts and Sciences (349), College of Business and Economics (32), College of Agriculture, Forestry & Natural Resource Management (18), and Ka Haka `Ula O Ke`elikolani College of Hawaiian Language (13) are candidates for degrees or certificates.

Kim was born in Ola`a (Kea`au), where he worked on the family’s farm, lauhala business and kim chee business. He graduated from Hilo High School in 1957 and attended UH Hilo before entering the Army in 1962. Following his discharge from the Army, Kim enrolled at Southern Oregon State University where he earned a bachelors degree in education and a masters degree in social science (economics).

Kim began his professional career as an educator. From 1967 to 1971, he taught at Honoka`a and Hilo High Schools and was a lecturer at Hawai`i Community College before becoming director of the Law Enforcement Assistance Agency (LEAA) in 1971. The LEAA was a federal and county funded agency which developed needed programs in many areas for educational, public safety, judicial organizations and social agencies.

But it was the time he spent as administrator of Hawai`i County Civil Defense that made Kim a household name throughout the Big Island and much of the State. Appointed to the post in 1976 by then-Mayor Herbert T. Matayoshi, Kim supervised a top to bottom re-organization of the agency, which included the relocation from the old Hilo Hospital on Rainbow Drive to modern state-of-the-art facilities in the Hilo Public Safety Building and development of a highly effective system for emergency preparedness, response and recovery during times of disaster.

Kim earned widespread praise for his crisis management skills in overseeing a number of disasters with no loss of life, including the lava inundation of the Royal Gardens and Kalapana communities, earthquakes, numerous drought-induced brushfires, the February 1986 windstorm, various hurricane threats and the tsunami warnings of 1986 and 1994.

His disaster management skills made him a highly sought after expert. Kim served as a resource and advisor on disasters following the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State, and Hurricanes Iwa and Iniki, which hit Kauai in 1982 and 1992. He was invited to speak and participate at the United Nations emergency management conference in Nagoya and Kagoshima, Japan, and was selected by the UN for the development of an emergency management handbook. Kim was later enlisted by the government of Honduras to assist that country in the development of a civil defense system shortly after his retirement in 2000. But retirement didn’t last long.

In July of 2000, he officially entered the Big Island Mayor’s race, and easily swept aside the field in both the primary and general elections. As Mayor, Kim has focused on rebuilding public trust in government, ensuring development doesn’t outstrip the island’s infrastructure, improving basic services like police and fire protection, and catching up on overdue maintenance of county facilities. He has also led the so-called “War on Ice” by convening two Big Island ice summits, hiring an assistant to direct a coordinated strategy and working with U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye to secure important federal funding. Last year, Big Island voters rewarded Kim by overwhelmingly electing him to a second term.

Karlen Suga, a communication major, will serve as the student speaker. Suga was born and raised in Hilo, graduated from Waiakea High School, and enrolled at UH Hilo in the fall of 2000.

Suga has compiled a lengthy record of service in the areas of student activities and campus affairs. She was a member of the UH Hilo Congress from 2001-2002 when she served as a student representative for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Suga was a UH Hilo student association volunteer from 2001-2003, and later served as an executive senator from 2003-2004.

Suga, who carries a 3.03 GPA, has earned a number of academic honors. Named to the National Dean’s list for 2004-2005, Suga was twice selected to “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges,” and is a member of the Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society Hilo Chapter.

“Inspiration” will be the main theme of Suga’s address. Suga, who plans to pursue a career in college student services, sees commencement as a time to reflect on the people and experiences that inspired the class of Spring 2005 and draw from it to inspire those around them.

For more information on commencement, contact Haunani Bernardino at (808) 974-7705 or email For special accommodations, contact Susan Shirachi at (808) 933-0816 (V) or (808) 974-7335 (TTY). Requests for special accommodations should be made at least 10 business days prior to the event.

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