An interview with Richard Kosaki

Richard Kosaki

Richard Kosaki, who is credited with being the architect of the University of Hawaiʻi community college system, died October 25, 2016 at the age of 92.

Kosaki taught political science at UH before moving into administration where he had a long distinguished career. He served as vice president for community colleges, vice chancellor for academic affairs, chancellor of West Oʻahu and acting chancellor for UH Mānoa. He also helped to found the East-West Center.

“Dick was an icon of leadership for the UH System over many years, helping us develop and advance thoughtfully together in service to the people of Hawaiʻi,” said President David Lassner.

“We celebrate Dick Kosaki as the father of the community colleges,” said UH Vice President of Community Colleges John Morton. “His vision and early leadership created the community college system in Hawaiʻi, a system that now serves 30,000 students. Dr. Kosaki believed that the benefits of higher education needed to be extended to all of Hawaiʻii’s citizens and we are proud to work to continue his legacy.”

Longtime UH administrator and faculty member Amy Agbayani said Kosaki is a big part of Hawaiʻi’s history. “There is a deep respect for Dr. Kosaki because he demanded respect for all and understood the aspirations of the people of Hawaiʻi,” said Agbayani, the director of the UH Mānoa Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity Programs. “Dick Kosaki was able to bring together scholarship, policy and praxis to benefit students, university and the state he loved.”

According to a 2004 online news article about Kosaki in Discover Nikkei, his favorite maxim was the cornerstone of his educational philosophy: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Kosaki was born and raised in Hawaiʻi and graduated from McKinley High School. He served in the Military Intelligence Service during and after World War II, spending several years in Japan as an interpreter during the occupation. He graduated from UH in 1948. He began his career with the university in 1952 as a junior researcher before receiving his master’s and PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1956. Kosaki, a professor emeritus and a chancellor emeritus, retired from UH in 1985.