University of Hawaii at Manoa aerial - 1932
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa aerial - 1932

Our History

The University of Hawaiʻi began as a single small college on Oʻahu whose first permanent building, Hawaiʻi Hall, was constructed on land formerly used for pig farms. Today UH spans four islands with more than 55,000 students enrolled in the 10–campus system.


The Hawaiʻi Territorial Legislature established the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Honolulu under terms of the U.S. land grant legislation. Ten students begin classes with 13 faculty members in September of the following year.

First faculty group photo The first faculty – 1907


In 1912 the founding campus was renamed the College of Hawaiʻi and moved to its present location in Oʻahu’s Mānoa Valley. The first graduates were awarded degrees–two in the sciences and one each in agriculture and engineering.

historic graduation scene The first graduates – 1912


Six years after William Kwai Fong Yap petitioned the legislature for university status, the campus became the University of Hawaiʻi.

William Kwai Fong Yap portrait William Kwai Fong Yap


Frederick W. Beckley teaches the first Hawaiian language classes offered at UH.

Frederick W. Beckley 1922


UH absorbed the Territorial Normal and Training School (now the College of Education) and graduated its first PhD candidate, J. S. Phillips, whose dissertation addressed control of ants in pineapple fields.

Building front College of Education – Wist Hall


Professor Gregg Sinclair founded the Oriental Institute, fore–runner of the federally sponsored East–West Center, setting the agenda for the University of Hawaiʻi’s ever growing prominence in Asia Pacific expertise.

sepia colored illustration of the Oriental Institute of the University of Hawaii by C.W. Dickey, architect The Oriental Institute – 1936

1941–45: World War II

Classes were suspended for two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. UH students of Japanese ancestry formed the Varsity Victory Volunteers to assist with civil defense; many later become part of the famous 100th Infantry Battalion.

Student at bomb shelter 1941–1945


After three years of offering UH Extension Division courses at the old Hilo Boarding School, the University of Hawaiʻi–Hilo Branch was approved in 1951. The enrollment was 100 students. In Mānoa, Earle Ernst staged the first postwar kabuki production, founding an Asian theater academic program.

students in front of UH Hilo Branch sign 1951


The UH Community Colleges system was established with Honolulu, Kapiʻolani, Kauaʻi and Maui campuses.

Kauai Community College building Kauaʻi Community College – 1964


The founding campus, now called UH Mānoa, established a School of Travel Industry Management and the forerunner programs of the School of Pacific and Asian Studies.


The John A. Burns School of Medicine opened at UH Mānoa.

JABSOM logo 1967


Leeward Community College was established, and construction began on the first telescope atop Maunakea volcano.

Leeward Community College campus building 1968


Hilo Technical School was transferred to UH and established as Hawaiʻi Community College. The new college offered comprehensive education in conjunction with Hilo College, now known as UH Hilo. At UH Mānoa, Hawaiian Studies was formally established under liberal studies.


Windward Community College was established.

scenic view of campus 1972


UH Mānoa added the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Maile lei untying 1973


UH Hilo opened its College of Agriculture.

students in front of building 1975


The University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu was established.

UH West Oahu protables 1976


A provisional Hawaiian Studies Program at UH Mānoa was approved by the Board of Regents and was granted permanent status six years later.


UH Mānoa built Rainbow (now Les Murakami) Stadium, and for the first season, UH Mānoa played on a natural grass field.

Baseball stadium field 1984


The School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology was established at UH Mānoa. The school incorporated geology, geophysics, meteorology, oceanography and ocean engineering, the Institutes of Geology and Marine Biology and the Natural Energy Institute. The Sea Grant and Space Grant College programs, the Undersea Research Laboratory, the Center for Volcanology, the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research and the Waikīkī Aquarium were included as well.


University Park of Science and Technology Phase I opened under the management of UH Hilo. The first tenants are several base facilities for international observatories with telescopes on Maunakea.


A record setting private gift by Ed Pauley purchased Coconut Island—known to millions of television viewers as Gilligan’s Island—for expanded marine biology research.

Coconut island aeria view 1993


UH Mānoa added an award–winning 10,000–seat, Special Events Arena named for Athletic Director Stan Sheriff.

Stan Sheriff arena 1994


UH Hilo became the first in the U.S. to offer a master’s degree in an indigenous language, Hawaiian.

Group of students with leis 1996


Researchers at UH Mānoa were the first to successfully clone multiple mammalian generations, starting with the mouse, Cumulina.

Cumulina, the worldʻs first cloned mouse 1997


Hawaiʻi voters overwhelmingly supported constitutional autonomy for the University of Hawaiʻi, ensuring the institution more control in the management of its resources. Honolulu Community College was selected to be one of only six Cisco Training Academies in the country to offer certified network professional training.


The university won the contract to manage the Maui Supercomputing Center for the Air Force Research Laboratory and operate the Navy’s high-tech, twin–hull R/V Kilo Moana.

Kilo Moana ship Kilo Moana – 2001


The new medical school and biomedical research facility in Kakaʻako opened its doors.

John A. Burns School of Medicine building 2005


At UH Mānoa, the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge was established, the only college of indigenous knowledge in a Research I institution in the United States.

Taro in front of the Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge buildings 2007


The University of Hawaiʻi celebrated 100 years of higher education with events that honored the past and celebrated the present and future. Since its founding, more than a million students have taken UH courses for credit.

Centennial logo 2007–2008


UH West Oʻahu welcomed 2,000 students to the new, permanent campus, which features 100,000 square feet of classroom and laboratory space with state-of-the-art equipment. West Oʻahu’s library and resource center at the heart of the campus is now a landmark in Kapolei thanks to its stunning architecture.

new West-Oahu building 2012


UH Mānoa celebrated 100 years of Cooperative Extension Service at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The Cooperative Extension Service delivers science-based information to farmers and ranchers and supports families and communities both rural and urban.

student studying coffee tree 2014


Hawaiʻi Community College opened the Pālamanui branch campus in North Kona. The sustainably-designed new facilities serve the West Hawaiʻi community with on-site and distance education classes and programs.

People in front of building 2015


Project Imua brought together students and faculty from four UH community colleges–Kauaʻi, Windward, Honolulu and Kapiʻolani–to develop small payloads for spaceflight. The project was funded with a half million dollar NASA grant to the Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium, and the payloads were launched successfully at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

students working on payload 2015–2017


UH provides free community college for all students with financial needs through a scholarship program called Hawaiʻi Promise. The “last dollar” scholarships assure that UH community college students with unmet direct costs of education would receive financial aid. Students are first awarded Pell grants, UH scholarships and private scholarships before being awarded a Hawaiʻi Promise Scholarship for unmet direct costs such as tuition, fees, books, supplies and local transportation.

U H Maui College commencement
Last modified: June 21, 2018