UH Hilo drama professor Jackie Johnson receives Rose of Excellence award from Zonta Hilo

The award recognizes women who have made significant impact on the lives of others through their employment, volunteer activities and associations.

Jackie Pualani Johnson
Jackie Pualani Johnson

Professor Jackie Pualani Johnson has received the “Rose Award of Excellence” award from the Zonta Club of Hilo, an organization with the mission to empower women through service and advocacy. Johnson is an accomplished and beloved professor of drama at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

The Zonta Rose Award of Excellence recognizes women who have made significant impact on the lives of others through their employment, volunteer activities and associations. The award is part of Zonta International’s observance of International Women’s Day and Zonta Rose Day.

“Zonta Hilo is proud to play a part in celebrating Jackie’s extraordinary achievements and contributions to the arts, education and throughout the community,” says Julie Tulang, service chair of Zonta Hilo. “For nearly four decades, Jackie has worn many hats—teacher, mentor, performer, director—inspiring and sparking creativity wherever she goes.”

A thespian’s life

Johnson was born and raised in Hilo. She is a graduate of St. Joseph High School, where she began singing under the direction of Clarence Waipa. Johnson received her bachelor and master degrees in drama from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

She has performed hula and chanted oli (chant) for international audiences, and played a number of roles in local theater productions including Golde in Fiddler on the Roof and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Johnson helped organize, and appeared in, Hilo Community Players’ Shakespeare-in-the-Park, now in its 39th year. For the outdoor summer production’s 25th anniversary, she fulfilled a lifelong dream, presenting a pidgin version of a Shakespeare classic re-titled One Uddah Mid’summah.

Johnson is chair of the performing arts department at UH Hilo, where she began teaching in 1979. She has taught acting, stage make-up, costuming and directing, and provided oral interpretation of literature with an emphasis on works by local writers. Johnson has directed more than seventy productions, and plans to retire from UH Hilo in May 2017.

Recently, she acted in and directed historical performances for Kona Historical Society including Isabella Bird at Kealapuali, Kona Coffee Days, and A Visit to Kalu Kalu as well as scripts based on the lives of female monarchs in Hawaii including Queen Kaʻahumanu and Queen Liliʻuokalani.

Johnson is married with three daughters and six grandchildren.

Recognition Dinner


To purchase tickets for the recognition dinner to be held March 14, 2016, 5:30 p.m. at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, contact Ashley at (808) 989-4004 or via email at alk[at]hastingsandpleadwell.com. Tickets are $25 and include dinner.