Vibrant at Ninety: Honolulu Community College

April 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in April 2010, Cover Story, Features, Multimedia  |  3 Comments

Text version of the timeline narrated in this slide show.

For nine decades under five names and two state agencies, Honolulu Community College has responded to social and cultural changes in Hawaiʻi to meet education and workforce needs. The college offers a broad range of career and technical programs as well as comprehensive liberal arts offerings that prepare students for transfer to baccalaureate institutions.

Along the way, it has grown from a Territorial Trade School with 42 students in hand-me-down buildings. Then, classes met seven hours a day, 11 months a year. To be admitted, students had to be 15 and have completed fourth grade. By 1966, Honolulu Community College evening students outnumbered day students 1,500 to 850. Today, more than 5,000 students attend courses at the main Dillingham campus and multiple off-campus learning sites.

The college kicked of its 90th anniversary in February 2010 with a celebration at the site of the Old Chinese Hospital, its first home. Masked children from the college’s Keiki Hauʻoli children’s center welcomed the Chinese New Year, and students, faculty and guests consumed a 90-centimeter moon cake.

A lūʻau honors 26 distinguished alumni on April 22, 2010. Among those to be honored are World Wide Web Hall of Fame member Kevin Hughes (’92–’93); retired Honolulu fire chief Attilio K. Leonardi (AS in fire science ’72; MA ’94 Mānoa); Manuhealiʻi owner Danene Manuhealiʻi Lunn (AS in fashion technology ’86); judiciary program specialist Christine M. Kefford (AS in human services, AA in liberal arts ’97; MSW ’01 Mānoa); and Kumu Kahua Theatre artistic director Harry Wong III (AA in liberal arts ’87; BA ’90, MFA ’93, Mānoa).

Participating alumni receive a commemorative book, designed by the college’s graphics program, highlighting all 26 honorees. Read condensed versions of the entries on physician Khoi Le and pilot Tara Eavey

The anniversary year will include a futures conference in November. “Times of celebration are also times of reflection,” explains Chancellor Michael T. Rota. “As we celebrate our 90th anniversary, we are also taking a long and hard look at the future to determine how to meet our ambitious strategic goals for the next decade,” he says.

90th Anniversary Calendar

For information on these and other 90th anniversary events, call (808) 843-7788 or visit the the anniversary website.

  • April 22, 2010—Outstanding Alumni Lūʻau, 5 p.m., Dole Cannery
  • May 2010—Fashion Show featuring a 1920s theme in the opening segment
  • June 25–27, 2010—MELE Songwriters Workshop, see the MELE website
  • July 2010—Celebration of the Hōkūleʻa in recognition of the college’s partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society
  • August 2010—Scholarship Reception
  • October 2010—Book Reading Festival featuring books published by Honolulu Community College faculty
  • November 2010—Arbor Day Planting of a pair of lama trees significant to the area (Kapālama means “the lama-wood enclosure”) by Building Five
  • November 2010—Futures Conference addressing the future of the college
  • February 2011 Capstone Event closing the anniversary year

Honolulu Community College Alumni

Among the alumni honored April 22 are two who seized the liberal arts and career training opportunities offered by Honolulu Community College.

Khoi Le: From immigrant to physician

Khoi Le


UH degree: AA in liberal arts ’97; BS ’99, MD ’04 Mānoa
Practice: Internal medicine, Providence Medical Group
Educational bonus: Meeting future wife An Nhu at Honolulu

After a serious illness at age 8, Khoi Le decided to become a doctor, but his course was more difficult than most.

His family survived war, separation and chaos in Vietnam. He had been accepted to medical school there, but the family immigrated to the United States, where he had to master English as a second language before pursuing his dream.

After three years at Honolulu Community College, he graduated from college and medical school and completed residency in Portland, Ore., where he now lives and works.

Le’s memories of campus remain strong. “It is the first school I went to in my new life as a refugee in the land of freedom to seek my opportunity and fulfill my dream. It is the school where I met and knew so many kind and wonderful professors. It is the school that did so well in equipping me with basic training and knowledge that I used as the platform to spring farther and achieve my goal,” he says.

“Part of my success today is thanks to my knowing so many great teaching exemplars.”

Tara Nicole Eavey: Achieving sky-high dreams

Tara Nicole Eavey


UH degree: AS in commercial aviation ’03 Honolulu

Career: Commercial pilot
Memorable college moment: Participating with an all female crew in the Great Hawaiian Air Race

At age 12, Tara Nicole Eavey had an introductory flight lesson and became hooked on aviation. By 16, she decided she wanted to be a professional pilot.

With her parents’ support, she researched educational options, settling on Honolulu Community College because of its affiliation with the University of North Dakota’s aviation program.

After completing her bachelor’s degree at UND and serving as a flight instructor in Florida, she joined Great Lakes Airlines, where she made captain at age 25.

Eavey remembers the quality of instruction in sociology as well as aviation. She enjoyed exchanges between student mechanics and pilots in the aviation club that she started.

“The decision to attend Honolulu CC was one of the best decisions I ever made,” even though it meant moving to Hawaiʻi alone at age 18, she says.

“The kindness I received from the staff was unparalleled. Two financial aid advisors, April and Sue, were like my godmothers away from home. When I attended the graduation ceremony, they came to wish me farewell and gave me flower lei. They touched my heart more than they’ll ever know.”

Billie Takaki contributed to this article

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  1. bob kunigonis says:

    April 30th, 2010at 10:13 am(#)

    aloha i went 2 Windward cc, but i am happy 4 hcc. congrats! aloha hawaii bob

  2. Spring Issue of Mālamalama Released | News@UH says:

    April 30th, 2010at 7:00 pm(#)

    [...] Honolulu Campus at 90 [Video] [...]

  3. Georgia Acevedo says:

    May 24th, 2010at 1:07 pm(#)

    This was a very nice article. However, I was dismayed to find that not one reference was made to the outstanding Early Childhood Education Program provided at HCC.