David Lassner has served for more than ten years as the 15th president of the University of Hawaiʻi (UH). In that capacity he simultaneously leads the 10-campus UH system, the state’s sole provider of public post-secondary education, and Hawaiʻi’s flagship research university, UH Mānoa.
Lassner has an ongoing focus on helping more Hawaiʻi residents, particularly those who have historically been left behind, earn college degrees and credentials with a focus on critical areas of workforce shortage where there are high-quality vacancies such as in education, health care, technology, energy and the skilled trades. He is committed to strengthen the state’s economy by leveraging UH research and innovation to create and fill more high-quality jobs locally. Lassner is advancing UH’s commitment to become a model Indigenous-centered university that cares for Hawaiʻi, Native Hawaiians and all of Hawaiʻi’s people as it weaves together modern science and education with the traditional indigenous wisdom, values and practices that made the Hawaiian islands a model of self-contained sustainability before western contact.
Under Lassner’s leadership metrics of student success have shown steady improvement across the UH System and enrollment has remained strong. A restructuring of the relationship with the University of Hawaiʻi has led to record philanthropic investment. A focus on research that matters to and is grounded in Hawaiʻi has led to record extramural funding. And strong management practices have ensured financial stability through recessions and a pandemic.
Lassner began working at UH in entry-level roles in information technology (IT) in 1977, eventually becoming UH’s first chief information officer and then its first vice president for IT. He was appointed interim president in September 2013 and the “interim” was removed in June 2014. Lassner is also a member of the university’s cooperating graduate faculty and has taught both online and in-person at UH Mānoa in in computer science, communications, business and education.
Lassner is a Commissioner and former chair of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) and a member of the Board of Governors of the East-West Center. He serves on the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advisory Committee on Cyberinfrastructure and on the boards of Internet2, the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), the ʻIole Stewardship Center and the Blood Bank of Hawaiʻi. He serves on the Boards of the Mountain West and Big West intercollegiate athletic conferences and is the current Big West Chair. He previously served on and chaired the boards of the National Association of System Heads (NASH).
In his prior positions Lassner played an active leadership role in a variety of local, national and international information and communications technology organizations. He chaired Hawaiʻi’s Broadband Task Force and served on the boards of Hawaiʻi’s High Technology Development Corporation and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate. Lassner chaired the boards of the Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC) and EDUCAUSE and was a founding steering committee member and past-chair of WICHE’s Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET).
An active principal investigator for more than 25 years, Lassner led Hawaiʻi’s major statewide project funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce that interconnected all public schools, libraries and campuses on six islands with fiber optics. He has had support from the National Science Foundation for over some 25 years focused on research and education networking and cyberinfrastructure in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. He is principal investigator for the Maui High Performance Computing Center and for the Pacific Disaster Center, major long-term U.S. Department of Defense programs based on Maui. In all, Lassner has served as principal investigator for more than $540 million of extramural funding.
Lassner earned an AB in economics summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa followed by an MS in computer science while supported by a University Fellowship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He earned his PhD in communication and information sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi.
Lassner has been recognized with Internet2’s Richard Rose Award, WCET’s Richard Jonsen Award, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California’s inaugural Christine Haska Distinguished Service Award. He was also named a Distinguished Alumni Educator by the UIUC Department of Computer Science and a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Hawaiʻi.