UH degrees: BA in journalism ’85, MBA ’03 Mānoa
Career: Corporate counsel, Queen’s Health Systems
Roots: Kaimukī High School
Famous family: Father, Gordon Kakuji Inouye, “Mochi Pounding King” and Hawaiʻi Central Tenrikyo Church minister who did more than 1,000 broadcasts on radio KZOO
Hobbies: Photography, fishing, golf
Proudest moment: “Seeing the relief on my client’s face when I won my first jury trial…to be able to bring that justice about.”
At age 10, Douglas Inouye pictured himself as an attorney. “I saw the black and white original of 12 Angry Men. Back then, lawyers were held in high esteem as thinkers, out for justice. I’ve always held that image in my mind.”
Second youngest of nine children from a family of modest means, he knew law school would be as challenging to pay for as it would be to get in. So in the second grade, he started delivering newspapers. In fifth grade, between studying and going to the beach, he cleaned vegetables and waited on customers at Yama Brothers Produce in Chinatown’s Oʻahu Marketplace, contributing most of his wages to the family.
“I am what I am today because of that experience,” says Inouye. “You learn a lot about people, especially in Chinatown. I learned to work with people of very different backgrounds. That’s what Hawaiʻi’s about—diversity and being able to get along. We learn to endure and put up with things we don’t like, and we learn to celebrate and develop the things we do.”
During high school, Inouye spent up to 32 hours a week working at McDonald’s in Kāhala, still helping his family make ends meet. Still, he found time to be a drummer in the Kaimukī Pep Squad. That’s when he met longtime pal Janet Yoshida Bullard. The former Roosevelt High School cheerleader is now executive director of the UH Alumni Association; Inouye is president of its volunteer board of directors.
With a passion for reading and writing and love of the ocean, he considered college studies in journalism and marine biology. USC and Michigan beckoned—and his sisters offered to help financially—but he decided to attend the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
Inouye launched into his first semester with 17 credit hours, pledged the Peng Hui fraternity, was a frosh camp counselor and was elected ASUH senator. He worked the graveyard shift as night auditor for Outrigger Hotels. “I was getting maybe three hours of sleep a night,” he says. “I always thought sleep was a waste of time.” And for the most part, he still does.
Awarded a Tenrikyo Ichiretsukai Scholarship to study in Japan, Inouye pursued an associate degree in Japanese at Tenri University in Nara, where he also became president of the Foreign Students Association and worked as a volunteer in the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department. Before graduating in 1982, he entered a Kansai Gaidai University speech competition for foreign students and won first place, which included an all-expenses-paid trip to the Philippines.
“Going and seeing the difference between the haves and have-nots was eye opening. We struggled a bit growing up, but it was amazing to see the difference there.” It was 1981; Ferdinand Marcos had recently lifted martial law. Talking with people he encountered and feeling the pulse of public opinion, “the journalist in me came out,” he says.
Back at Mānoa, he began reporting for Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi. He picked up photography from friend and engineering major Richard Kim. “I shot my first roll and tried not to ruin it while souping it (in the darkroom).”
He recalls shooting a Police concert at Aloha Stadium and other concerts on campus. People came to the Ka Leo office asking who took the shots. “That’s what was so gratifying—they really appreciated it.”
Now he’s teaching son Gordon to shoot. “I give him pointers, but I never tell him how he should see things, or what he should feel when he peers through the camera lens.”
Inouye had returned to Outrigger, pulling a 48-hour, six-day workweek as a front office manager. He stayed with the company after graduation, working as assistant manager of the Outrigger Prince Kūhiō, where he met future wife Jane.
For a second time, a powerful image captured his imagination. Standing in line at the old Student Services Center at UH Mānoa, he saw a poster advertising Asian Americans in law at Boston College Law School. “I actually have a framed copy of that poster hanging in my office,” he says.
“I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to finance it, but I applied anyway,” he recalls. Acceptance came with a financial aid package that included a half-tuition waiver. He returned to island home after earning his JD in 1991 and married Jane a year later.
During the past 19 years, Inouye has served as state deputy attorney general in the Employment Law Division and practiced law as an associate at two law firms. In 1999 he joined Queen’s Health Systems. His boss, Robert Oshiro (BA ’49 Mānoa), encouraged him to pursue an executive MBA at the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business.
“It was good advice and a great challenge, so I dove into the program head-first,” he says. “You really have to go through the program to truly appreciate the value of the degree.”
He still feels like he should be studying something. “No matter how much you know about anything, there’s always someone who knows more. You can always learn,” he says. “The more balanced you are, the better perspective you have in dealing with people.”
Inouye serves on the board of directors for Special Education Centers of Hawaiʻi and the State Board of Private Detectives and Security Guards. He remains active in the Tenrikyo Young Men’s Association at church and, following in his father’s footsteps, emcees the New Year’s mochi pounding at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi.
In 2003 Inouye joined the UH Alumni Association board of directors. He says he believes strongly that the university is “at the core of our state, developing minds now that will be running our community in the future. ”
The alumni organization can help UH grow and prosper, he says. “Alumni will go on to do great things, and we must give back. Whatever the contribution, big or small, it’ s so important that each of us does.”