UH Hilo’s ʻImiloa Astronomy Center announces first-ever endowment gift

In honor of educator and public servant Ilima Piʻianaiʻa, the fund will benefit the astronomy center in perpetuity and enable the sharing of programming with current and future generations of young people.

Ilima Piʻianaiʻa, with lei
Ilima Piʻianaiʻa

The legacy of the late educator and government planner Ilima Piʻianaiʻa is being celebrated through the establishment of a new endowment at the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center located on the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus.

Gordon Piʻianaiʻa of Honolulu and Norman Piʻianaiʻa of Kamuela have made a gift through the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation to create a new permanently endowed fund to honor their sister and expand access to educational programming at ʻImiloa by K-12 students.

“Just as we are marking the 11th anniversary of our opening, ʻImiloa is thrilled to have our very first permanent endowment, a fund that will benefit the center in perpetuity and enable us to share our unique brand of programming with both current and future generations of young people,” says ʻImiloa Executive Director Kaʻiu Kimura. “We are humbled by the Piʻianaiʻa family’s vote of confidence in ʻImiloa and excited about what this will mean in our second decade and beyond!”

UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney adds, “This wonderful gift will benefit the children of Hawaiʻi for years to come.”

About Ilima Piʻianaiʻa

Born and raised on Oʻahu, Ilima Piʻianaiʻa (1947–2006) pursued a noteworthy career in the public sector, starting with her service as a Hawaiʻi County planner helping to develop a general plan for the island. She later served with the Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority and worked on the Kakaʻako Improvement District, among other projects. She lectured in geography and planning at UH Mānoa from 1980 to 1984, administered the Task Force on the Hawaiian Homes Commission from 1982 to 1983, then held appointments as Hawaiʻi County deputy planning director, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, director of the Office of International Relations and Affairs, and deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture.

Norman Piʻianaiʻa comments about his sister, “Even though Ilima was from Honolulu, she loved the Big Island and its people. She moved here around 1970 and mentored in the planning department under Director Raymond Suefuji during the days of Mayor Shunichi Kimura, a time when things were in a process of great change in Hawaiʻi. With ancestral roots firmly planted here, we are confident that Ilima would be pleased to know she has in this way returned and will continue to help nurture and contribute to the future education and development of Hawaiʻi Island youngsters.”

A longtime friend of Ilima, Deanne Lemle Bosnak, remembers her as “a perfect embodiment of ‘aloha.’ She personally represented Hawaiʻi’s beautiful blend of cultures, its warm hospitality and its welcoming aloha spirit. She was also a diplomat who worked hard to build bridges between disparate communities and cultures, demonstrating in everything she did a deep respect for the land and the values of its people.”

Annual distributions from the Ilima Piʻianaiʻa Endowment will support access to ʻImiloa by local elementary, middle and high school students, and may include subsidized admission and or transportation to the center, subsidized fees for ʻImiloa programs, and/or program outreach to rural parts of Hawaiʻi Island and the state.

Get involved

To make a gift to the Ilima Piʻianaiʻa Endowment please visit the UH Foundation website.

—A University of Hawaiʻi Foundation story via UH System News.