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Remarks by the Chancellor at 2011 UH Hilo Awards and Recognition Celebration

Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a received the 2011 Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence in Innovation. (l-r) Barry Taniguchi, nominator Alohalani Housman, honoree Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a, and UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney.

Remarks by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney
2011 UH Hilo Awards and Recognition Celebration
May 3, 2011
Campus Center Plaza

Aloha and Welcome to the UH Hilo Awards and Recognition Ceremony.

As we gather to recognize our honorees, I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize and say “thank you” to all of you. It has been almost a year since I first arrived at UH Hilo, and it’s been an extraordinary learning experience. I’ve found a good deal to admire about our faculty and staff and our entire university community. Your dedication contributes greatly to our success and it’s been an absolute pleasure working with you to move UH Hilo forward.

Today, we’ll recognize our recent retirees, our faculty and staff years of service, and we’ll also announce the winners of this year’s UH Hilo Awards. Before we start with our ceremonies, I’d like to briefly update you on a few things.

Strategic Plan

The strategic planning process is drawing to a close, and we currently have a draft plan that is widely supported on campus. I’d like to thank everyone for your participation. By the end of spring semester we should be distributing the working draft. Next year, we’ll be using it to adjust the course of our university through implementation.

New Scholarship Program

Planning is underway for a very exciting new development: the launch of an ambitious new scholarship program at UH Hilo one year from now. Details are still being worked out, so I am not at liberty to reveal the donors. Funding 4-year scholarships for ten entering students beginning with the 2012-13 academic year. Scholarships are reserved Big Island high school graduates who have limited financial resources and are first in their families to attend college. Ten scholars will start UH Hilo in 2012, with ten more added each year until program reaches 40 participants annually. Just as exciting, each cohort of students will receive specialized support services and the opportunity to participate in four summers of uniquely designed programming here on the Big Island and elsewhere. Our own faculty and staff will be involved in the delivery of these programs and services.


As you know, the current fiscal situation in the state presents a challenge to implementing the changes the campus would like to see. The budget challenge is statewide: state government needs to make up a $1.3 billion shortfall in the next biennium. UH Hilo has already taken a 24.5% reduction in general funds over the last three years. Last week we learned how we fared in the legislature for CIP. We got 50% funding for student housing ($16 million) and permission to get the other 50% from revenue bonds. The legislature is also giving us $4 million towards the renovations and addition to Hale Kanilehua to accommodate living/learning centers. Please join us for the all-campus meeting on the budget set for Thurs., May 5 at 11:30am in Wentworth 1.

Graduation Initiative

We’re confident UH Hilo will exceed this year’s graduation targets set for us by the UH System.

Display table of koa bowls and lei given to honorees at UH Hilo's 2011 Awards and Recognition Celebration held May 3 at the Campus Center Plaza.
Display table of koa bowls and lei given to honorees at UH Hilo’s 2011 Awards and Recognition Celebration held May 3 at the Campus Center Plaza.


Retirement Recognition

Let’s start our ceremonies with the recognition of retirees. This list covers the period from April 2010 through April 2011. Anyone retiring after April 30 will be recognized at next year’s event.

Not with us today are:

Kamila Dudley, Instructor of French, taught at UH Hilo for 17 years. Kamila’s innovative teaching methods, such as taking groups of students to Tahiti and France, led to her being the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence by an Instructor. She also brought French culture to campus in many ways, including her annual cheese tasting event. She was a passionate advocate for language instruction on the campus.

Stephen Hora, who was at UH Hilo for 25 years, serving as Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Management Science and Statistics. We thank Steve for his 25 years of service as a professor and administrator at UH Hilo.

Sara Millman, Associate Professor of Sociology, arrived at UHH Department of Sociology in 1991 after teaching for almost a decade at Brown University. A population specialist, she brought a wide range of international experience on topics ranging from migration and hunger to the benefits of breastfeeding. She was recognized for both her teaching and community service regarding the AIDS epidemic.

Susan Rezentes served at UH Hilo for 11 years as support staff in the Natural Science Division and the EEO office, and later, as secretary to the executive assistant to the chancellor. Susan’s warm personality, can-do spirit, and take-charge attitude are much missed around the office.

Gene Paul Villaruel, electrician. Gene started his State employment with Dept of Accounting and General Services in 1983 and came to the University in July of 2008. During his short time with us, his priority was the night lighting on the buildings, walkways, and in the parking lots. Faculty, staff and students were grateful for the work he did to make the campus a safer place at night.

Stephen Worchel, Professor of Psychology and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, retired after 10 years at UH Hilo. Steve is renowned for his research in social psychology.

We have five of our retirees with us today. Please come up as I introduce you.

[Chancellor presents koa bowls, Acting Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kenny Simmons presents lei to each honoree.]

Walter Dudley
Walter Dudley

Walter Dudley, Professor of Marine Geology and Oceanography, taught and developed programs and curricula at UH Hilo for 31 years. Walt was instrumental in developing UH Hilo’s Marine Science program into the internationally recognized program it is today. He has also headed the Kalakaua Marine Education Center. His acclaimed work on tsunami hazard mitigation has assisted communities and countries throughout the world.

Lawrence Heintz

Lawrence Heintz, Professor of Philosophy. In his 30 years at UH Hilo, Larry helped build our philosophy department and curricula. His public service work in medical bioethics has contributed greatly to both the lay community of our island and to the academic community in this field.

Alvin Miyashiro

Alvin Miyashiro, a janitor for Auxiliary Services who has worked at UH Hilo since 1998. He was named an Administrative Affairs Employee of the Quarter in 2006. Alvin is known as a “cleaning machine” for the areas surrounding buildings, our parking lots, grounds and walkways. Time and again he’s demonstrated excellence in service with his willingness to help people.

Ruth Robison

Ruth Robison, was with UH Hilo for 28 years. She was hired in the early 1980s as our psychometrist and served as Director of International Services for the past 10 years, welcoming and working with students from around the world. Ruth is known for her genuine warmth and spirit of aloha in making our international students feel at home and part of our university ‘ohana.

Albert Yoshitsugu

Albert Yoshitsugu, Janitor, has retired after 34 years at UH Hilo. He started as a janitor in 1976 and was promoted to working supervisor in 1987. He and his crew work on the main campus, cleaning the Performing Arts Center and Old Gym area, as well as administration offices and vocational shops. He was named Administrative Affairs Employee of the Quarter in 2006. Albert’s priority was to make our campus looks as good as possible.

We wish our retirees all the best!

Years of Service: 10

Next, I’d like to announce our Years of Service Awards. Will those of you receiving awards for 10 years of service please stand as I introduce you? I understand we have a tradition of singular claps for this recognition; let’s give one clap for each name I call:

  • Malia Chun
  • Dawna Coutant
  • Carl Dionne
  • Lincoln Gotshalk
  • Janice Hall
  • Erica Honda
  • Susan Jarvi
  • Antoinette Mallow
  • Barbara Meguro
  • Keith Miser
  • Lynn Morrison
  • Michael Murakami
  • Susan Oldfather
  • Yu Yok Pearring
  • Lily Pua-Kaipo
  • Norman Purves
  • Dolly Roth
  • Kolby Santiago
  • Nina Segawa
  • Roy Taylor

Years of Service: 20

Next is the Years of Service Awards for 20 years—if you’d please stand—let’s give two claps for each person:

  • Robert Abe
  • Samuelyn Gaison-Evangelista
  • Myrtle Hara
  • Harry Hennessey
  • Ken Ikeda
  • Ellen Kusano
  • Karla McDermid Smith
  • Ricky Nakao
  • Curtis Nishioka

Years of Service: 30

And now we recognize the “survivors”—those with 30 years of service—if you’d please stand as I introduce you. Let’s give three claps for each of our survivors:

  • Dwayne Branco
  • Lynette Egusa
  • Leon Hallacher
  • Ginger Hamilton
  • William Heacox
  • Sonia Juvik
  • Wesley Kahakua
  • Ernest Kho

Years of Service: 40

And now a very special recognition to two who have been with UH Hilo for 40 years. Let’s give a round of applause each for:

  • Michael Tanabe
  • April Scazzola

As a finale, let’s give a big round of applause to all Service Award recipients.

RSVP and Other Volunteers

We are fortunate to have volunteers to help care for our landscaping, provide beautiful floral arrangements, and volunteer other services for us. Some volunteer through the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program or RSVP, and others volunteer on their own.

If you could all stand up and be recognized and we will bring a lei to you at your seat because you usually bring things to us.

Our volunteers are:

  • Jean Funai
  • George Matsubara
  • Philomena Rabago
  • Sueno Saruwatari
  • Lynn Shimazu

A round of applause for our RSVP and other volunteers!

Other Recognitions

Will all members of the UH Hilo Faculty Congress stand and be recognized?

Will all who served on search committees this year stand and be recognized?

Will all faculty and staff stand and be recognized?


We’ll now continue to the UH Hilo Awards, to honor extraordinary contributions by members of our university ‘ohana.

Student Employee of the Year Award: Mariah Toledo

Mariah Toledo
Mariah Toledo

We’ll start with our Student Employee of the Year award.

I’d like to call Norm Stahl from the Career Center to help present the award.

[Norm speaks and calls nominator Farrah-Marie Gomes to stage. Farrah speaks. Honoree Mariah Toledo is called to stage. Farrah presents Mariah with plaque. Kenny presents lei.]

Congratulations, Mariah!

Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities: Rebecca Ostertag

Tracy Weigner and Rebecca Ostertag
(l-r) Tracy Weigner and Rebecca Ostertag

The next UH Hilo award to be presented in the Award for Excellence in Scholarly and/or Creative Activities. This award is presented to a member of the tenure track faculty or a full-time BOR-classified professional staff member for outstanding achievement in scholarly and/or creative endeavors, including publication of well-reviewed books, publication in refereed journals, or performances or exhibitions at the state or national levels.

I’d like to call on Tracy Wiegner to help present the award.

[Tracy speaks. Tracy calls honoree Rebecca Ostertag to the stage. Kenny presents lei. Chancellor presents medallion and envelope.]

Congratulations, Rebecca!

Professional Staff Award: Kolby Santiago

Kolby Santiago
Kolby Santiago

The next award is the UH Hilo Professional Staff Award. This award is presented to a professional staff member who has made major professional contributions to his/her unit and to the university as a whole, and has made a positive impact on the welfare of students and colleagues.

I’d like to call on Jeff Scofield to help present the award.

[Jeff speaks. Jeff calls honoree Kolby Santiago to the stage. Kenny presents lei. Chancellor presents medallion and envelope.]

Congratulations, Kolby!

Outstanding University Support Employee Award: Kirk Mikami

Mason Kuo and Kirk Mikami
(l-r) Mason Kuo and Kirk Mikami

Our next award is for the Outstanding University Support Employee Award. This award is presented to a university support service employee who has made significant contributions to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

I’d like to call up Mason Kuo to help present the award.

[Mason speaks. Mason calls honoree Kirk Mikami to the stage. Kenny presents lei. Chancellor presents paperweight and award envelope.]

Congratulations, Kirk!

Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence in Innovation: Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a

Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a
Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a

Next is the Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence in Innovation. This award recognizes the creative use of technology in teaching, scholarship, research and artistic production by fulltime faculty or staff at UH Hilo.

I’d like to call to the podium Randy Hirokawa, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to help present the award.

[Randy Hirokawa speaks about award and its history. Randy calls up Barry Taniguchi and nominator Alohalani Housman. Alohalani Housman speaks and calls honoree Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a to the stage. Barry Taniguchi speaks. Kenny presents lei.]

Today, we are presenting Keiki with monetary awards and her name will be placed on this perpetual plaque as the fifth recipient of the Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation. Keiki also receives a koa clock as a personal memento of her achievement.

Congratulations, Keiki!


Before I close, I’d like to acknowledge the three search committees for the awards; many thanks for your service. I’d like to thank the chairs Randy Hirokawa, Philippe Binder and Claire Shigeoka.

This concludes our awards and recognition ceremony. Aloha.


Photos by John Oshima.

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