Dearly-loved and influential previous Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Keith Miser passed away in Bloomington, Indiana
‘Everywhere he went, he would walk into a room and he would always say, ‘Well, Hello!’ and everybody knew Dr. Miser was here.’
‘He brought much to Hawaii and left his signature in Hawaii. He gave a lot to UH Hilo and Hawaii is a richer place because his care and support touched the lives of so many.’
Staff Writer Holly S. Trowbridge
Photographs provided by the UH Hilo Chancellor’s Blog
Dr. Keith Miser, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s (UH Hilo) previous Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (VCSA) passed away in Bloomington, Indiana at the age of 78 after battling Parkinson’s disease. Miser served as VCSA from 2004 until 2011 before leading the Center for Global Education and Exchange.
Rose Tseng, UH Hilo’s Chancellor from 1998 until 2010, worked closely with him in procuring most of the buildings on the UH Hilo campus. Tseng feels that he was one of the most qualified, experienced candidates, so she decided to hire him.
During his time as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, he played a significant role in securing the Student Services Center, the University Classroom Building, and the Student Life Center. “You can thank Keith Miser for that one,” says Kurt Dela Cruz, the university’s senior advisor. Dela Cruz wants students to realize that a lot of what is seen on the UH Hilo campus today was probably implemented or impacted by Keith Miser in some way.
The years that Keith Miser worked as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs were the years when the idea of a “living, learning laboratory” came about. It was an era of great change at UH Hilo, as the university was finding its individual strengths, besides being seen as under the shadow of UH Mānoa, states Dela Cruz.
Prior to his time at UH Hilo, he worked in Student Affairs at Colorado State University and the University of Vermont. He won several national awards for his work and was given an honorary degree at the University of Vermont, where he started in the business of Student Affairs, where he began.
Keith was widely known throughout the country, according to Ann Miser, his wife. He gained National Accreditation by both the National Association of Student Personnel (NASPA), and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). He was even part of a first wave of pioneers who brought scholarly study and validation to the field of student affairs.
“He did very well with the students in Hawaiʻi; with students of all different backgrounds. He was a good mentor for many of the staff and students. He was just very good at managing people. He was genuinely interested in people. He was very experienced, honest, and dedicated. He loved students. He mentored many students. He was almost like a father figure,” says Tseng.
Similarly, Dela Cruz points out, “Keith and his wife, Ann would Hanai. They would informally adopt [students.] They’d let people stay at their home, drive their cars, they’d feed them, make sure everybody had a place on Thanksgiving, you name it. Keith made pies. He was an excellent pie-maker. He did that, and gave that kind of love to a lot of people. They were the uncle and the auntie everybody wanted.” Keith Miser worked his last year in Hilo being in charge of overseeing the International Student Development Program, and in that time, “Keith helped to build the very foundation for the higher-education system in Belize. In my view, Keith was so fundamental in helping to build their education system that he is in the history of Belize Higher Education, almost like their Thomas Jefferson,” says the former director of university relations at UH Hilo, Gerald De Mello.
As a member of the Hilo community he was well-respected, and various faculty members really enjoyed knowing him, according to Mrs. Miser. Keith was Dela Cruz’s advisor and instructor. Dela Cruz says he took a liking to people and students who reminded him of himself, especially those who were from underrepresented populations or historically marginalized populations.
Dela Cruz says Keith came to the university wanting to make a difference before retiring fully. “Everywhere he went, he would walk into a room and he would always say, ‘Well, Hello!’ and everybody knew Dr. Miser was here,” says Dela Cruz.
“The thank-you’s that Keith and I could give to UH Hilo would be almost unlimited,” shares Ann Miser. “Hilo was a tremendously wonderful experience for us because it was a real cultural place, and it was a time of growth for the university. We met so many people at work; it would be impossible to state how fulfilling that was. I think it changed both of us for the better.”
In 2013, Hilo bid adieu to the Misers who moved back to Indiana to be near family. “Keith brought much to Hawaii and left his signature in Hawaiʻi,” shares De Mello. He gave a lot to UH Hilo, and Hawaiʻi is a richer place because his care and support touched the lives of so many.”