Every year, the University of Hawaiʻi Alumni Association presents its Distinguished Alumni Awards in recognition of outstanding alumni accomplishments, inspirational leadership and service to the university and the community.
“We all feel like we are proud to be alumni of the University of Hawaiʻi and we want to showcase the best and the brightest,” said UH Alumni Association President Patrick Oki at the 2014 awards ceremony held at the Sheraton Waikīkī on May 7. “We have so many alumni but there are a few that distinguish themselves and we are very proud of them.”
“It’s a huge honor to be recognized by the University of Hawaiʻi. I was so fortunate to be a student there,” said Claire Asam, a 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award honoree along with her husband Dr. J. Kūhiō , Hawaiʻi News Now General Manager Rick Blangiardi and local broadcaster Emme Tomimbang.
Former Governor John Waiheʻe received the alumni association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Well, I think it is very special for me because, first of all, it was from the University of Hawaiʻi, which I believe is and should be, the premiere teaching, learning institution in the Pacific,” said Waiheʻe, a 1976 graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law. “It’s kind of from people at home.”
“It means so much,” agreed Blangiardi, who earned a masters degree in educational administration from UH Mānoa. “I had nearly a 50-year association with the University of Hawaiʻi, both as an undergraduate and getting my graduate degree in ’73, and a lifelong association because it’s been woven into the fabric of the body of my work as a broadcaster. So to be recognized tonight at this level, with the peer group that I am being accepted with means everything.”
“In this position of being honored, we actually represent, I believe, just a number of other fine, wonderful graduates of the university,” said Dr. J. Kūhiō Asam, who graduated from the John A. Burns School of Medicine and is now serving as the executive director of the King William Charles Lunalilo Trust and Home. “Those who have really served their community, those who have given up of themselves, and have used their education from the University of Hawaiʻi to better our communities.”
Tomimbang, a 1973 UH Mānoa graduate, was also presented at the event with her associate in arts degree from Leeward Community College.
“The AA degree means so much to me because those two years at Leeward really defined my life and got me to the UH, and got me through the UH,” said Tomimbang. “So I am grateful to the community college system.”
The UH medical and law schools played an incredibly significant part in the careers of Waiheʻe and J. Kūhiō Asam.
“If Chief Justice Richardson hadn’t founded the University of Hawaiʻi law school, I probably wouldn’t have my law degree,” mused Waiheʻe. “I don’t know how that would have affected whatever I would have done.”
“I graduated from the John A Burns School of Medicine,” stated Asam proudly at the event. “And through that process of becoming a physician, really became better understanding of the true community that we are here to serve.”
All of the honorees credit UH for having a tremendous impact on their lives.
“The university really provided the foundation of my knowledge, foundation in terms of learning and being able to build on that learning in my career and in my life,” said Claire Asam. “I am so appreciative of the opportunity that I had to study at the University of Hawaiʻi.”
“The University of Hawaiʻi is just that, it’s singular in my experience with it,” said Blangiardi. “It is very, very unique. It has given me so much and I would like to think whatever success I have had professionally, if I were to attribute it to someone or someplace, University of Hawaiʻi is very big in that equation.“
“Having gone to Leeward and going to the UH, a great institution with everything that armed me for who I am and what I have done in my life,” added Tomimbang. “I think that was the real prize.”
The University of Hawaiʻi Alumni Association includes more than 283,000 graduates from the 10 UH campuses living in all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Its mission is simple.
“It’s really to connect our alumni to the University of Hawaiʻi,” said Oki. “Get them engaged and excited and hopefully they can give back to the University of Hawaiʻi.“
“We got to start really realizing, how great what we have is, and how much greater we could make it if we actually got behind it,” said Waiheʻe.
“Once you realize the depth and the breath of what it does for the community, for our state and actually worldwide, from really the depths of the ocean from the heights of the heavens, the University of Hawaiʻi is there and it is top notch,” said J. Kūhiō Asam.
“I am forever encouraging young people not to go away, to stay home,” said Blangiardi. “And for people who are here to love the school, whether it manifests itself in showing up at sporting events or doing other things with the university. We have much to celebrate.”