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May, 2006 Vol. 31 No. 2
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Published May 2006

UH Alumni Profiles

Nancy McMahon

Archaeologist, rodeo cowgirl

Nancy McMahon
BA in anthropology ’81, MEd ’88, MA in anthropology ’90

Career: State archeologist

Roots: Denver

Family: Son Jeremy, 9 horses, 10 cows, 5 dogs, 6 parrots

Sports: Helped launch Rainbow Wahine softball as assistant coach; started professional women’s tackle football in Hawaiʻi and was one of three Hawaiʻi all–stars invited to play at the Orange Bowl

Best thing about UH: Good cultural experience. "It was interesting being in a class of more than 100 people and being the only white person."

Blame it on extreme weather. The harrowing experience of being stuck in her car in the middle of a blizzard convinced Denver native Nancy McMahon to attend UH Mānoa. After graduation, she commuted between Oʻahu and Kauaʻi for work until getting "stuck" on the Garden Isle after Hurricane Iniki and deciding to make it home.

An archaeologist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ State Historic Preservation Division, McMahon works to sustain historic sites. The position involves a lot of paperwork—reviewing permit applications and writing about 40 response letters a month—but also has its perks.

"I get to see parts of this island that many people have never seen and will never get to see." By foot, kayak and helicopter she ventures into remote areas to survey burial sites, heiau, terraces and other archaeological finds.

McMahon also conducts Hummer Tours of Kauaʻi, a two- to three-hour archaeological tour of Kauaʻi’s south shore. Five years ago she "started hanging around the rodeos here because I wanted to learn to ride more." Now president of the Kauaʻi All Girls Rodeo Association, she handles logistics and oversees events as well as running barrels, roping and tying up goats.

by Kristen Bonilla


Faye Kurren

Business leader learned to take a chance

Faye Kurren
JD ’79

Current positions: President, Hawaiʻi Dental Service; Chair, UH Foundation Board of Trustees

Roots:ʻAiea, Hawaiʻi

Family: Husband Barry (BA ’73, JD ’77, Mānoa); two daughters

Honors: 2006 YWCA Exceptional Leader Honoree; 2002 Pacific Business News Businesswoman of the Year

Key to success: "We’re all on different paths, but we should support each other along the way and not be afraid to change our routes, if necessary. And we should take the high road, so that when we succeed, others will feel proud to have invested in us.’

Hobby: Reading

Fear of failure may have caused her some youthful timidity, but Faye Kurren savors challenges now.

Trained in sociology and law, she was working as an attorney at Pacific Resources, Inc., when she was urged to head the petroleum company’s international marketing and supply efforts. Her team sourced crude oil from throughout the world.

"It&8217;s the best thing I ever did. I learned to have confidence in myself," she says. "Your greatest growth comes when you’re in a place in which you’re not comfortable." She grew into the company’s top job.

Now president and CEO of HDS, the unpretentious leader encourages employees to move beyond their own comfort zones.

Kurren also knows the value of a UH education. Sister Carol Kitaoka earned a UH law degree. Their parents, retired educators, are alumni. Husband Barry, a federal magistrate, has served as an adjunct law professor, and her late father-in-law, Oscar Kurren, was a longtime Mānoa faculty member.


Presenting the hula of business

Martin Martens

Martin Martens
MBA ’93

UH Degree: Assistant professor, Concordia University John Molson School of Business

Roots: Western Nebraska

Adventures: Spent a month inside a Russian volcano and watched solar eclipses from points around the globe

UH impact: Entered a PhD program and pursued an academic career at the urging of then Professor David McClain and other Mānoa faculty

Cornhusker Martin Martens became a hula dancer after moving to the islands to work for The Hawai&3699;i Newspaper Agency in 1988. Informal lunchtime hula lessons with a few co-workers evolved into a full hālau. "I learned a lot about the meaning of aloha by being part of this group," he says.

Martens earned a PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2002 and settled in Montreal, where he studies corporate governance in initial public offerings, issues related to sustainable development and antidotes to toxic organizations.

Last summer, he returned to Hawaiʻi for the international Academy of Management conference. Joined by Mānoa graduate student Aaron J. K. Sala and Kamehameha Schools’ Kaleo Trinidad, he presented ʻA&3699;ohe Pau ka ʻIke i Kau Hālau, a serious look at what can be learned from Hawaiian dance.

Hālau ka Leo o Laka i ka Hikina o ka Lā performed, and a panel discussed how layers of literal and symbolic meanings in hula and chant communicate history, religion and a sense of community bonds. The symposium was a revelation to those unfamiliar with hula, and quite emotional for some. One participant explained how her involvement helped her understand her own Cherokee heritage.

Martens and Sala plan to develop key points in follow up articles.

by Heidi Sakuma


Physical therapist makes house calls

Robert Makiya

Robert Makiya
AS ’84, AA ’95, Honolulu
BS ’97, Mānoa;

Career: Licensed physical therapist

Company motto:Therapy services in the comfort of your own home

Services provided: Physical and occupational therapies

Other experience: Elam Sports Oʻ and All–Star Sports and Therapy Center

Training: MS from Des Moines University and Osteopathic Medical Center

Robert Makiya founded SLR Therapy Services to provide physical and occupational therapy house calls. He got the idea while at Hale Nani on Oʻahu.

Families described the challenge of getting parents to outpatient clinics due to busy work schedules and asked if he could continue helping the parents at home.

Makiya was convinced that within the comfort of their home environment and with the involvement of family members, many patients are more receptive to treatment and more likely to continue exercises on their own after therapy ends.

His company specializes in service to the geriatric community, including balance, strength and endurance training, management of back pain and orthopedic surgeries, self-care and caregiver training. Contact him at 808 732-4288 or


Colorado high on Hawaiʻi aloha

Maile Inagaki

Maile Inagaki
BA ’00

Shop: Little Grass Shack Hawaiian Boutique


Past professions: Blackjack dealer, sushi chef

Public reaction: "So many people have traveled to Hawaiʻi and know about the culture. They may want to recapture part of their experience."

True to her name, Maile Inagaki imports authentic lei and other treats from Hawaiʻi to the Rocky Mountains. Her Denver business sells authentic lei, including orchid, tuberose, maile, ti leaf and kukui nut.

Inagaki developed a business plan during a community college course and began importing lei from Hawaiʻi and teaching lei making. The large number of Hawaiʻi students attending Colorado colleges make the garlands a popular item for local graduations, she says. It helps that the luau is a popular theme for restaurant events and corporate parties in the mile high city.

She also offers wedding services. "I’m definitely providing something you can’t find at Wal–Mart," she told the Denver Business Journal.

This spring, the shop introduced shave ice to Coloradoans. "Most people here have only tasted sno cones; hopefully, once they’ve experienced shave ice, they’ll be back for more," she says.


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