Philanthropist Paul S. Honda
From strands of pearls to opportunities for students
Paul S. Honda’s life story reads like the script for a Hollywood movie, complete with international intrigue, foreign locations and a happy ending here in Hawai'i.
Born in Manchuria and raised in Tokyo, Honda dreamed of studying abroad. In 1945, he returned to the land of his birth as the youngest exchange student ever at the National University of Manchuria. With the defeat of Japan and the end of World War II, the Russian army took control of Manchuria and Honda was ordered to attend Moscow University. When he refused, he was sent to a labor camp. He escaped and made his way to Dalian where he worked as a Russian-Chinese-Japanese interpreter until his repatriation to Japan.
Unable to continue his studies in Manchuria, Honda turned to America, where he entered the University of Denver’s MBA program. Short of funds, he sold seven strands of pearls that his mother had given him for such a purpose, and started Honda and Company. Thus began a highly successful career in international trading.
Honda’s visionary approach to philanthropy led to the creation of the Honda Foundation, which has supported more than 50 nonprofit organizations.
That and a lifelong affinity for international affairs resulted in a $1 million endowment to establish the Honda International Opportunities Fund, which benefits students attending University of Hawai'i community colleges. One of the largest endowment funds ever established for the UH community colleges, the fund enables students in liberal arts and technical fields to participate in international study programs at institutions in Asia, the Pacific and Europe.