Profession: Humanist writer, speaker
UH degree: BA in linguistics, ’90 Mānoa
Roots: Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Musical taste: Listens to Hawaiian music on 105 KINE via the Internet
Philosophy: Live life to the fullest, love other people and leave the world a better place.
From age 11 when she read Day of the Dolphins, Jennifer (Shaw) Hancock wanted to train dolphins. She also wanted to study linguistics. The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa was the only college she found that offered both…and an international humanities cannon that she considers unique to Hawaiʻi: a global education in literature, philosophy and the arts that allowed her to relate to her counterparts around the world, affected how she approached people and taught her that she had something to learn from her fellow humanists.
Going to school in Hawaiʻi, she learned to “slow down a bit and live a little while still getting life’s details taken care of,” she says.
She was director of a groundbreaking volunteer services program for the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, sold international franchise licenses for a biotech firm in Florida and managed acquisition group information for a half-billion-dollar company before returning to the non-profit sector in 2001. As executive director for the Humanists of Florida Association, she met people who didn’t realize they were humanists and others who could benefit from the humanist approach to life.
Young people, she realized, could benefit from an explicit discussion of the morals and values of humanism, so she wrote a book as a stay-at-home mom.
“The Humanist Approach to Happiness basically says, ‘here are personal ethics, here is why they are important and here is how you can apply them to your daily life,’” becoming happier and more productive, Hancock says.
She calls humanism—the applied study of what it means to be a good human being—one of the most influential philosophies in the world.
But hers isn’t a philosophy book so much as the pragmatic reasons for being an ethical, compassionate and responsible person. “If we can help others learn how to be happy, we can have a tremendous positive impact on the world,” she says.