UH Alumni Profiles
- Former policewoman is top election cop
- Charter school advocate recognized for leadership
- Bartender teaches trade and runs mortgage company
- Software engineer juggles job and motherhood
- Pair of authors delve into murder mysteries
Top election cop
BA sociology ’75, BS recreation ’79, MA sociology ’83, JD &38217;03
Career: Executive director, Campaign Spending Commission
Roots: ʻĀina Haina
Family: Husband, three children, a daughter-in-law, grandson on the way and two dog
First: Woman assistant police chief in Honolulu
First job: Optical company receptionist during high school
Hobbies: Going to the beach, a little golf, attending UH football and baseball game
After retiring from the Honolulu Police Department, Barbara Wong fulfilled a 27–year dream by attending the William S. Richardson School of Law.
"Around age 20, I had started the application process, and at the same time the police department opened its doors to female patrol officers," she explains. "The opportunity to become one of the first two female officers was too strong a call, and off I went."
She retired from police work because the timing was right. "I had accomplished everything in the department that I had wanted to and felt there were many great people coming up through the ranks in the department to carry on," she says.
Now Wong enters the election season just one year into her new job and as successor to the highly respected, long-serving Bob Watada. "It’s like jumping into the proverbial frying pan," she says. "This has opened my eyes to a whole new level of politics that I was unaware of, even though I thought I had seen quite a bit in my police career."
With an excellent staff and commissioners to work, she’s confident they will serve constituencies well. She says the best part of the job is "the people, the challenge and the ability to make a difference in people’s lives and the integrity of the campaign finance process."
Charter school advocate and Hawaiian activist
AA ’82 Kapiʻolani; BEd ’85, PD ’85, MA ’90
Career: Charter school founding director
Resides: Kukuihaele, Hawaiʻi
Family: Husband Nālei, two daughters
Languages taught: Hawaiian, German, French, Spanish
Interests: Spending time with ʻohana in Waipiʻo Valley, caring for the land and passing on traditional Hawaiian beliefs and practices, writing Hawaiian poetry and song
Compositions: Recorded by sister, Robi Kahakalau
For the past 20 years, Kū Kahakalau has dedicated her time to Native Hawaiian education. She is founder and director of the first public charter school in Waimea, Kanu o ka ʻĀina, where she has integrated a womb–to–tomb education model that combines community, culture and family at levels from a bilingual preschool program to an adult and higher education section.
Kahakalau’s work in the charter school movement was recognized in May 2006, when she was one of five women honored at the 29th annual YWCA Leader Luncheon in Honolulu. Concerned with Native Hawaiian activism, she also testifies on water rights issues, represents Hāmākua on the Hawaiʻi Island Burial Council and serves on Nā Hoa Hoʻōla—Native Hawaiian Safe and Drug Free Council.
Kahakalau is also instrumental in indigenous research worldwide. She was the first recipient of a doctorate in indigenous education (’03 The Union Institute and University in Cincinnati) and serves on the board of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, International organization. She spent this summer conducting research in Tunisia, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.
Juggling two businesses
BBA in finance ’99
Career: Owner/director/instructor, Bartending Academy, Inc.; owner, Innovative Mortgage Solutions
Coming attraction: February nuptials with fiancèe Kalei
Hobbies: Golf, travel to Las Vegas
Beverage of choice: Heineken or Bud Light
Life in bartending school: "The first day’s always the hardest."
Regan Onikama says he can’t just sit around. "I have to feel like I’m doing something productive," he says. Which is how he wound up juggling two diverse businesses.
After bartending his way through college (and then some) at the Kāhala Mandarin, Onikama decided to put his degree to use. UH alum Art Yamamoto hired him as a mortgage loan associate at the Bank of Hawaiʻi Pearlridge Branch.
"I really didn’t know what I was getting into," Onikama confesses. But the interpersonal skills he’d honed as a bartender came in handy.
The juggling began when Onikama became a teacher at the Bartending Academy in 2001. He started his own company, Innovative Mortgage Solutions, in 2005 and then bought the academy in May 2006. The original owners wanted a buyer who’d uphold the academy’s name.
"The only thing we do differently is advertise more," says Onikama. He finds rewards in both careers. "There’s no better feeling than getting people into their dream house," he says. And seeing students transform into bartenders is cool.
BS in mathematics ’86
Career: Software engineer
Roots: Born in Japan, raised in Honolulu
Family: Husband Jason (BS ’85 Mānoa), two children
Interests: Reading, kayaking, surfing the Web, traveling, eating chocolate
After graduating from college, Shiho You moved away from the islands to pursue her career, but always intended to return with her husband to raise their family. The were able to do so when both went to work for Boeing LTS, Hawaiʻi.
"We are very fortunate to be in a professional field that is dynamic and in demand," You says. The Boeing Company subsidiary performs space surveillance operations, including research and development for the Maui Space Surveillance System on Haleakalā, under contract with the U.S. Air Force.
In 18 years with Boeing, You has found a way to balance her professional life with her home life. The company supports working parents, she says. "They let me start a little earlier in the morning so that I can take care of our children in the afternoon, with all of their various after-school activities such as baseball, gymnastics, ballet, taiko, Cub Scouts and 4H," explains You.
"Jason does the morning shift of getting the kids ready for school and taking them there."
Alumni authors plot murder
MPH ’75, MD ’79
Suspicious deaths and rich cultural settings figure prominently in the latest books by two alumni authors.
A Bird in the Hand by Lynn Stansbury is the second murder mystery following a Korean-American homicide detective and his Japanese wife in Samoa. Historical novel Poisoned Palms: The Murder of Mrs. Jane Lathrop Stanford by Dorothea "Dee" Buckingham draws on the 1905 death of the "mother of Stanford University" seen through the eyes of a young hapa haole woman.
Buckingham, a librarian, is a regular at Mānoa’s Hamilton Library archives. Poisoned Palms is packed with historical research.
For a lighter read, she recommends My Name is Loa, a young adults novel set in the 1898 Molokaʻi Leper Settlement, although her contemporary novel about a Kailua cancer survivor, Staring Down the Dragon, was the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults pick in 2005.
A writer since age 8, Stansbury served in the Peace Corps in Guatemala, worked for the Indian Health Service in North Dakota, ran a black lung program in Colorado and directed a clinic for vineyard workers in California before settling in Washington, D.C., where she works as an epidemiologist.
A decade in Samoa proved an irresistible background for the classical mystery genre—entertaining, not overly serious on the surface, but fundamentally about how humans deal with life, death and justice.
"The culture of Samoa is quite simple in terms of material culture, but deeply, deeply sophisticated in human relations, much more sophisticated than any European society I know of," she says.