The University of Hawaiʻi Professional Assembly (UHPA) of Honolulu is honoring UH alumna, innovative researcher and UH educator Lani Stemmermann through a $204,000 pledge to create the Dr. Lani Stemmermann Endowed Fellowship. This endowment will support graduate students pursuing their PhD in botany in the UH Mānoa College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Botany.
“Over the years, UHPA has made contributions to the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation in support of students and faculty, often in response to matching contributions made by faculty members to scholarships. This contribution reflects the wishes of David Duffy, who has foregone a part-time paid leave of absence as UHPA president and requested that the funds be used to establish the Lani Stemmermann Endowment,” said UHPA Executive Director J.N. Musto. “This truly represents an extraordinarily generous act by David, and an expression of collaboration involving the botany department, the dean and the union.”
Ruth Lani Stemmermann earner her bachelor’s degree from the Pitzer College in Claremont, California and her master’s and doctorate degrees from UH Mānoa. She was hired as an instructor and then as an assistant professor at UH Mānoa and Hawaiʻi Community College, where she taught courses in plant ecology, biology and environmental sciences. She led the way with her combination of field-instruction and classroom teaching.
Her passion for field work and love for Hawaiʻi’s vegetation and landscape motivated her as a researcher and advocate. She became a champion for plant protection and preservation when she became aware of the military’s destructive effects on Hawaiian plants in the Big Island’s Pōhakuloa training area. Stemmermann lobbied for the survival of these rare plants by publicly citing the military for their disregard. The courts initially turned down her complaint, but through Stemmermann’s brave and persistent stance, the military eventually complied with her concerns.
Stemmermann became a co-principal on a new National Science Foundation project, Ecosystem Dynamics in Hawaiʻi, which gave her the opportunity to set up a Common Garden for the study of native rainforest trees.
In 1993 malignant lymphoma began to slow down her efforts and she succumbed to her illness on March 13, 1995.
“Lani believed that Hawaiʻi’s species and natural environment merited both research and conservation and she combined the two, setting an example that inspires today,” said UH Mānoa Professor David Duffy. “This fellowship celebrates her legacy in academia, just as the endangered palila and silverswords of Big Island endure as legacies of her advocacy on their behalf.”
Read more about Stemmermann in the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation news release.