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Regents’ Medals of Distinction

The Regents’ Medal of Distinction is awarded by the Board of Regents to Individuals of exceptional accomplishment and distinction who have made significant contributions to the university, state, region or nation or within their field of endeavor.

UH Executive Policy PDF on awarding of medals of distinction.

2019 Recipient

  • Chuck Gee, co-founder and longest-serving dean of the UH Manoa School of Travel Industry Management.

2009 Recipient

2008 Recipient

2007 Recipient

2006 Recipient

2005 Recipient

1999 Recipient

  • Noel P. Kefford, former College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources dean and author of the Industry Analysis System

1997 Recipients

  • George Chaplin, editor-in-chief of the Honolulu Advertiser for 26 years and honored by three nations for promoting better understanding between countries
  • Elmo Hardy, evolutionary biologist and world authority on big-headed flies important in agro-ecosystems
  • Hiroshi Tanaka, community advocate and education proponent instrumental in the development of UH Hilo
  • Mamoru Yamasaki, a staunch supporter of higher education during 33 years as a legislator
  • Wood Zimmerman, renowned entomologist on O‘ahu and a union activist on Maui

1996 Recipient

  • Gerald Sass, Freedom Forum executive supporting Asian studies fellowships at the University of Hawai‘i

1995 Recipients

  • Ernest Akamine, a UH plant physiologist who laid the foundation for handling tropical crops developed in Hawai‘i
  • Mackay Yanagisawa, the "shogun of Hawai‘i sports," a player, coach, manager, club owner and creator of the Hula Bowl Classic

1994 Recipient

  • Maya Angelou, a writer, educator, humanitarian and social activist hailed as one of the great figures in contemporary literature

Medal Recipient

Alice Ball in cap and gown

Alice Augusta Ball

Presented posthumously, January 2007, UH Manoa

The first woman and first African American to earn a master’s degree from the University of Hawai‘i (known as College of Hawai‘i in 1915), Alice Ball developed an injectable form of the active agents in chaulmoogra oil, which was used for 20 years to treat Hansen’s disease.

Born in Seattle in 1892, Ball moved with her family to O‘ahu in 1903 to accompany the ailing J. P. Ball Sr., her grandfather and a famous abolitionist and photographer. Her family moved back to Washington shortly after his death in 1904, and she continued her high school and undergraduate studies there, earning a pharmaceutical chemistry degree in 1912 and a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1914 from the University of Washington.

Ball’s master’s thesis, The Chemical Constituents of the Active Principle of the Ava Root, is still a part of the holdings in UH Manoa’s Hamilton Library. It focused on her research extracting the active ingredients from the ava (kava) root.

Hearing of her chemical skills, a U.S. public health officer asked her to try her technique on chaulmoogra oil, which had been used for centuries to treat Hansen’s disease but with unreliable results.

Ball isolated the active agents from the oil, a chemical extraction process that had thwarted researchers for years. It became known as the Ball Method. With the new treatment, no new patients were banished to Hawai‘i’s Kalaupapa colony between 1919 and 1923, and for the first time some Kalaupapa patients were released.

Unfortunately, Ball did not live to see the results of her research. She returned to Seattle in 1916 after becoming ill and passed away on Dec. 31 at age 24.