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.
- William Kwai-Fong Yap, higher education advocate and benefactor
- Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer, kumu hula, educator, author, composer and entertainer
- Alice Augusta Ball, pioneering chemist
- Abraham Piianaia, Hawaiian cultural expert
- Eliot Deutsch, philosophy scholar
- Noel P. Kefford, former College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources dean and author of the Industry Analysis System
- 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 Oahu and a union activist on Maui
- Gerald Sass, Freedom Forum executive supporting Asian studies fellowships at the University of Hawaii
- Ernest Akamine, a UH plant physiologist who laid the foundation for handling tropical crops developed in Hawaii
- Mackay Yanagisawa, the "shogun of Hawaii sports," a player, coach, manager, club owner and creator of the Hula Bowl Classic
- Maya Angelou, a writer, educator, humanitarian and social activist hailed as one of the great figures in contemporary literature
Alice Agusta Ball
Presented posthumously, January 2007, UH Manoa
The first woman and first African American to earn a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii (known as College of Hawaii 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 Oahu 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 Hawaii’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.