UH Hilo English major Braden Savage receives 2021 Matthew Therrien Award

Braden Savage is a writer and playwright, director, active in student clubs and events, and has received numerous awards for his outstanding work.

By Lauren Okinaka.

Braden Savage
Braden Savage. Photo via Vulcan Vibe.

Braden Savage is the recipient of the 2021 Matthew Somchai Therrien Memorial Award. The $1,000 award is given to an outstanding English major at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

“With his impressive 4.0 GPA, Braden is a prime candidate for the Matthew S. Therrien award,” says Kirsten Møllegaard, professor and chair of the English department. “He is an accomplished writer. He is also, by the way, a really nice person. He truly captures the spirit of the Therrien award.”

Savage was initially interested in the creative writing certificate at UH Hilo and later continued as an English major.

“I was intrigued by the potential of working with other students who were interested in writing, as well as receiving educated feedback and instruction from professors,” he says. “The English program at UH Hilo is filled with enthusiastic professors and students, and I’ve been exposed to diverse types of assignments, which have all pushed me in different ways to develop my art.”

His list of activities, accomplishments, and accolades is extensive.

Savage is actively involved with a variety of activities and programs that promote writing and performing arts at UH Hilo. He is the president of the English Club and vice president of the Drama Club. He also is the editor-in-chief at the Kanilehua Art and Literary Magazine and a tutor at Kilohana Academic Success Center at UH Hilo.

“Braden was a Kilohana Academic Success Center tutor for my English composition classes last year,” says Patsy Iwasaki, an English instructor at UH Hilo. “He did an outstanding job of providing helpful, constructive feedback to students on their writing assignments.”

Savage wrote and directed the short play Hearts which was performed on the Library Lanai in association with Valentine Vignettes 2020 and was an assistant director on Moore: A Pacific Island Othello. He is currently directing a virtual film with the Drama Club titled Not the Best.

He received numerous Howard and Yoneko Droste Awards for Excellence in Writing. In spring 2020, he received the Award for Outstanding Work in Playwriting and in spring 2019, the Award for Outstanding 200-Level English Paper and Award for Outstanding Work in Fiction.

Savage also has organized multiple events at UH Hilo, from planning an in-person question and answer with author Alyson Hagy in spring 2019 to arranging a talk with author Lois Lowry set for April 30, 2021. In the past, he has organized Brown Bag sessions via Zoom with other professional writers.

Moreover, he is actively involved in several outreach and community events such as Wailau (a series of themed storytelling events) and TEDx.

The Matthew Somchai Therrien Memorial Award

Matthew Therrien playing ukulele.
Matthew Therrien

Matthew S. Therrien was an aspiring English major at UH Hilo at the time of his tragic death in a car accident on April 6, 2014. He was a gifted poet and writer with a dream of becoming an English professor. The Matthew Somchai Therrien Memorial Award began with a generous donation by Stephen and Gloria Gainsley, longtime friends of the Therrien family. The annual award recognizes an outstanding UH Hilo student majoring in English.

The recipient of the award must be an English major and have demonstrated academic merit with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. The awardee must also have demonstrated excellence in writing, preferably through published work.


Story by Lauren Okinaka, who is earning a bachelor of arts in communication with a minor in English.