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May 12, 2011

UH Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner

Tonight, we honor seven individuals for their impressive accomplishments and contributions to our community. I’d like to congratulate them all on their career successes and thank them for representing UH as our ambassadors in the community.

Among tonight’s honorees we have military veterans, accomplished lawyers, an agricultural entrepreneur and a medicinal chemistry expert. They are all shining examples of how the University of Hawai‘i is preparing today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders both here in Hawai‘i and around the world.

We also remember and pay tribute tonight to an extraordinary lady, affectionately known as the First Lady of Limu. Dr. Isabella Abbott embodied the spirit of the University of Hawai‘i through her dedication for seeking knowledge with a deep respect for native culture and all people. She has left behind a legacy of inspiring innovation and passion in her students, colleagues and community.

Her legacy, and the achievements and successes of all those we honor tonight, serve as an inspiration to our students to continue to strive toward their goals.

This university and all of us here tonight are very proud to call our honorees UH alumni.

I‘d also like to take this opportunity to thank all of our UH alumni for representing the university in the community. We are truly grateful for your continued support for Hawai‘i’s university.

As the state’s sole system of public higher education, the University of Hawai‘i plays a central role in developing and disseminating the knowledge and training the workforce to ensure Hawai‘i’s educational and economic success in this rapidly changing global environment.

Our unique, integrated university system is an extraordinary asset, unlike any other in the nation. It provides us with a distinct advantage to explore and build innovative partnerships to accomplish together what we would not be able to achieve separately.

Our goal is to build on the strengths and opportunities we have here to make UH the best performing system of higher education in the country.

As you know, we are weathering some difficult economic times in Hawai‘i, and the university has not escaped unscathed. We have managed significant budget reductions while the university is experiencing its highest enrollment levels ever. Last fall, more than 60,000 students enrolled at our campuses across the state. It is obvious that in these economic times, more and more people are turning to higher education.

Despite our budget challenges, we are doing all we can to be responsible stewards of our younger generations’ future. We continue to believe and to remind all we are in contact with that higher education is an absolutely critical investment in our future.

I ask all of our alumni and friends to join us in spreading this message. You are all examples of the success that can come from a UH education. You can help your university by continuing to be inspirational leaders to our students. As alumni, your experiences and knowledge are a valuable resource. You provide insight to developing trends and new directions that business and industries are pursuing. You advise our students on the advanced skills needed to remain competitive in the job market, and your commitment of time at student activities and functions shows them that the alumni of this great university care about their future.

I know you all share my pride in what we are doing and what we plan to accomplish. Our alumni are one of the university’s greatest strengths, and I believe that together we can achieve great things and continue our tradition of providing a first-class education. Tonight’s honorees are perfect examples of the transformational power of higher education.

Thank you all for your continued support for Hawai‘i’s university.