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From left: Larry Kim, Eric Matsumoto, Valerie Takata, and Gerald De Mello

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo presents this year’s Distinguished Alumni honorees—Larry Kimura, Eric Matsumoto and Valerie Takata. The Distinguished Service honoree is Gerald De Mello.

They will recognized at the 13th Annual Distinguished Alumni and Service Awards Banquet on Friday, February 22 at the UH Hilo Campus Center Dining Room, 5 p.m. Tickets are $75 each or $600 for a table of eight.


Larry Kimura is recognized as the grandfather of the movement to perpetuate the use of Hawaiian language in modern Hawaiʻi, and has a PhD in indigenous language revitalization. As an assistant professor of Hawaiian language and culture, Kimura has spent 20 years creating audio documentation of the last Native Hawaiian language speakers. He is co-founder of Hawaiʻi’s Pūnana Leo Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools and chair of the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee to create new Hawaiian words. Kimura also serves as Hawaiian cultural planner and interpreter for the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center.

Eric Matsumoto is the 16th bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaiʻi, the state’s largest Buddhist denomination. He is the third youngest minister in the history of the mission to assume the title of bishop. Born and raised in Hōnaunau on Hawaiʻi Island, he is a graduate of Konawaena High School and a recipient of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship. Matsumoto has a master’s degree in Shin Buddhism from Ryukoku University and was resident minister of Mōʻiliʻili Hongwanji on Oʻahu for eight years. He has also served at Hawaiʻi Island temples in Paʻauilo, Honokaʻa, Waimea and Kohala.

Valerie Takata is the State of Hawaiʻi, DOE Complex Area superintendent for the Hilo and Waiākea districts. Prior to her appointment in February 2002, Takata served as Hawaiʻi district superintendent and deputy district superintendent. During her administration at Keonepoko Elementary School, she was selected as the State of Hawaiʻi’s National Distinguished Principal. Takata is a pioneer of the Huiana Student Internship Initiative, which is the state’s only islandwide internship program. She has been credited with co-founding a landmark business-education partnership, establishing an alliance between businesses, the community, UH Hilo and the Department of Education.

Gerald De Mello is the former director of university relations at UH Hilo, a position he held for 21 years. He previously taught sociology for 15 years at UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College, where his efforts were recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award. Following his tenure as an educator, De Mello was East Hawaiʻi administrative assistant to Governor John Waiheʻe. Under his directorship, UH Hilo has attracted funding and resources for a new classroom building, a Marine Science Building, a Student Life Center and a new Science and Technology Building. He also helped to establish the North Hawaiʻi Education and Resource Center, the College of Pharmacy, a new College of Hawaiian Language building and the Student Housing Complex University Village Phase I.

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