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Kurisu to keynote UH Hilo’s fall commencement

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Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, 974-7642

For Immediate Release

Prominent Hawai`i sportsman and business owner Duane Kurisu delivers the keynote address at the University of Hawaii at Hilo fall commencement, scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday, December 17, at the UH Hilo New Gym.

A total of 256 students representing the College of Arts and Sciences (217), College of Business and Economics (27), College of Agriculture, Forestry & Natural Resource Management (11), and Ka Haka `Ula O Ke`elikolani College of Hawaiian Language (1) are candidates for various degrees or certificates.

The Big Island-born Kurisu is a modern day Horatio Alger story, having risen from the humble beginnings of a plantation community to attain financial independence by his mid-30s. The owner of over 12 businesses, his empire ranges from shopping centers and office high rises to professional baseball, media and a bakery.

Kurisu graduated from Hilo High School before going on to earn bachelors and masters degrees in business administration from UH Manoa. He later served as a member of the University of Hawai`i Board of Regents from 2001 to 2004.

In his late 20s, he formed his first company, Kurisu and Fergus, and began developing real estate. In just seven years, he had earned enough to retire and go fishing, but that soon gave way to a new challenge to build community related businesses.

His love of sports led him to establish the Hawai`i Winter Baseball League (HWBL), which became the first international professional baseball organization with players from around the world. From 1993 through 1997, the league introduced Hawai`i fans to future major leaguers, including Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Giambi, and A.J. Pierzynski of the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. The HWBL experience earned Kurisu an invitation to become an owner of the San Francisco Giants.

He then expanded his business holdings by obtaining ownership in numerous local publications, including Hawai`i Business Magazine, Honolulu Magazine, the Honolulu Star Bulletin, MidWeek, Downtown Planet and Pacific Magazine. Other businesses include the Punalu’u Bake Shop, Watermark Publishing and Sports Radio 1420, which carries broadcasts of the Giants and University of Hawai`i sports.

Those who know him best say Kurisu’s strength is his ability to connect with the community in a special way. Described as a “doer,” whose art is business, Kurisu’s business savvy is matched by his compassion grounded in the belief that truly successful businesses help humanity.

Shelly K.W. Pelfrey, a geography major, will be the student speaker. Pelfrey was born and raised in Kailua, O`ahu, graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1988 and
moved to Waikoloa in 1993. Pelfrey, who carries a 3.68 GPA, has earned a number of academic honors. She made the Dean's List in the College of Arts and Sciences for three consecutive semesters between Fall 2003 and Spring 2004, and four times at Hawai`i Community College before transferring to UH Hilo in 2003. She earned an E `Imi Na`auao and Pacific Asian Tuition waiver in 2004 and 2005, and was selected for inclusion in "Who's Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges" in Fall 2004.

Active in campus and community affairs, Pelfrey works with Nà Pua No`eau students during their Summer Institute and Super Saturday events, serves as an alaka`i for Hàlau Hula O Nàpua and initiated and manages a Geography study hall in the Spatial Data Analysis Lab.

Her commencement address will focus on the need to keep life in perspective while pursuing career goals.

For more information on commencement, contact Jackie Pualani Johnson at 974-7304 or email For special accommodations, contact Susan Shirachi at 933-0816 (V) or 974-7335 (TTY). Requests for special accommodations should be made at least 10 business days prior to the event.

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