Barry Taniguchi to keynote UH Hilo Fall Commencement; history major Evan Matsuyama is student speaker

Barry Taniguchi in produce section of his grocery store.
Barry Taniguchi

Students have petitioned for a total of 290 degrees and/or certificates from four UH Hilo colleges.

By Susan Enright.

Barry Taniguchi, chairman and CEO of KTA Super Stores and K. Taniguchi, Ltd., will keynote Fall Commencement at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

Taniguchi is a pillar of the East Hawaiʻi community. In addition to heading the chain of Hawaiʻi Island family grocery stores established in 1916 by his grandparents Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi, he serves on the board of directors for Hawaiian Electric Industries, American Savings Bank, and Valley Isle Produce. He is active in several local chambers: Chamber of Commerce of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Island Chamber of Commerce, Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaiʻi. He also serves on the Hawaiʻi Island Economic Development Board.

At UH Hilo, the Taniguchi Memorial Fund establishes endowments for the five degree-granting colleges. The Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation recognizes creativity in teaching, scholarship and artistic production at UH Hilo. Taniguchi served 12 years on the Mauna Kea Management Board, including five years as chair, and is a past member of the UH Hilo Chancellor’s Advisory Committee.  He received the UH Outstanding Alumnus in 2004 and the UH Hilo Alumni and Friends Distinguished Service Award in 2005.

Student Speaker

Evan Matsuyama gives the shaka to the camera. He wears a blue rain jacket.
Evan Matsuyama

Evan Matsuyama, a history major, will be student speaker at commencement. Matsuyama was born and raised in Kailua-Kona, and graduated with honors from Kealakehe High School in 2011.

Matsuyama arrived at UH Hilo in the spring of 2013 after graduating with honors from Hawai’i Community College. At UH Hilo, he has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and earned a place on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s List four times.

He successfully defended his history senior thesis paper, “American Samurai – An Inheritance of Honor: A Historical and Cultural Analysis of the Japanese American Warriors of World War II,” in spring 2014. Matsuyama also is a member of Phi Alpha Theta and president of the UH Hilo History Club.

“Evan is an exceptional student who is well-respected and well-liked throughout the history department without exception,” says Jeffery Smith, assistant professor of history and Matsuyama’s senior thesis advisor. “His research on the 442nd (Regimental Combat Team) is especially impressive. Drawing upon sources including oral histories, primary source documents, and personal interviews he has conducted, Evan’s research is a nuanced analysis of what motivated and inspired the members of the 442nd.”

Matsuyama has presented his research across Hawai‘i, the mainland, and France.

“Evan has a positive mindset and generous personality that have not only made him a favorite among his fellow students, but also within the history department faculty,” says Smith. “This can be seen in his work organizing events as president of the History Club as well as publicly speaking on the GRE exam as part of history department graduate school preparation sessions. Quite frankly, Evan is a terrific person as well as student, and I am quite sure he is bound for even greater things in whichever history graduate program is lucky enough to have him.”


UH Hilo Fall Commencement will be held on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, at 9 a.m. in Vulcan Gym.

Students have petitioned for a total of 290 degrees and/or certificates from the colleges of Arts and Sciences (204), Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (28), Business and Economics (30), and Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language (12), while 16 others are candidates for various post-graduate honors.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.