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Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column: The history of UH Hilo is one of progress

Growth and progress demand persistence—and we are continuing our momentum this year.

By Marcia Sakai

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.Aloha and Happy New Year!

I’m looking forward to the coming year as the momentum of progress and growth continues at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. During our day-to-day life on campus, when progress is often challenging, it’s easy to lose sight of just how far we’ve come over the years in serving the higher education needs of our island.

In 2017, UH Hilo celebrated its 70th year providing access to higher education for the people on Hawai‘i Island. We began our journey in 1947 as the Hilo Program, a UH Extension Division program where courses were taught at the old Hilo Boarding School. In 1951, the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo Branch was founded with an enrollment of 100 students. After several transformations, the four-year Hilo College began in 1969, and by the following year merged with Hawaiʻi Community College, becoming the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

More recently, in 1991, UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College separated, but continue to share many of the same resources. Over the years since, Hawai‘i CC and UH Hilo have worked together closely on many initiatives, most notably on the seamless transition of students into the university and on developing Native Hawaiian protocols in our teaching, research, and outreach activities.

Over the years, the university established five colleges, most recently the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy with its inaugural class ten years ago in 2007. It is the only accredited pharmacy college in the region, with a presence not only on Hawai‘i Island but also on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Maui and in the South Pacific in Guam, American Sāmoa and Saipan.

In 2018, we will celebrate several more noteworthy milestones.

Mookini Library and Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall opened 35 years ago. The names remind us of people who helped build this university. The library is named after former Chancellor Edwin H. Mookini who served from 1976 to 1979. Edith Kanaka‘ole was a beloved Hawaiian practitioner, kumu hula, composer, and founder of the Hawaiian studies program at UH Hilo.

Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language will be 30 years old. The college is named in honor of Ruth Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa, the 19th century high chiefess known for her strong advocacy of Hawaiian language and culture. Internationally recognized for successful cultural and language revitalization curriculum, the college’s staff and students honor the chiefess’s legacy as they do their work and study for the benefit of all Hawaii’s people.

The University Classroom Building is 15 years old—when it was built, it was the first construction of a major building at UH Hilo in over 20 years. It’s now our signature building at the entrance of campus, housing classrooms, offices and gathering places for our university community and the general public.

And five years ago, the Hale ʻAlahonua residence hall opened, the first new student housing project since 1989.

In my 26-plus years at UH Hilo, I have learned that growth and progress demand persistence—and we are continuing our momentum this year. We are building a new home for the pharmacy college, moving forward with forming the new College of Natural and Health Sciences, and we just launched the search for our new chancellor.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor, UH Hilo

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