Daniel K. Akaka (Photo by Jeff DePonte)

Former U.S. Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka, a proud University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa graduate who passionately supported his alma mater and Hawaiian issues throughout his longtime public service, died April 6. He was 93.

The first U.S. senator of Native Hawaiian descent, his distinguished career began in 1976, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for seven consecutive terms until his appointment to the U.S. Senate in 1990.

He represented Hawaiʻi for 23 years until his retirement in 2013. While the senator championed many causes that stem from his military service and early work as an educator, he was most recognized for his passion for Native Hawaiian issues and for bringing true aloha to Capitol Hill.

“He loved his people,” said Jon Osorio, interim dean of UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. “He had a deep and abiding aloha for Hawaiians and was legendary for his hospitality to visitors from Hawaiʻi to his office in Washington. Many people have spoken about his kindness and attentiveness to them.”

In 2012, the UH Board of Regents awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, which is bestowed on individuals distinguished by their national or international reputations or accomplishments in scholarship, public service, profession, industry or other areas.

In 2013, he was honored by School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies with the I Ulu I Ke Kumu award for extraordinary commitment and excellence in Native Hawaiian education.

In 2013, the Friends of Senator Daniel Akaka from Hawaiʻi and around the nation commemorated the senator’s outstanding life accomplishments by establishing the Senator Daniel K. Akaka Regents Scholarship Endowment. Established in partnership with the UH Foundation, the scholarship supports outstanding students selected as UH Regents Scholars. The Regents Scholarship Program, established by the Board of Regents in 1986, was created to help Hawaiʻi‘s most promising students pursue their higher education ambitions right here at home.

“Senator Akaka lived a remarkable life of aloha serving the public and was a role model for so many people of Hawaiʻi,” said UH President David Lassner. “He was one of our most distinguished alumni, and we continue to honor him and those who follow through the Daniel K. Akaka Regents Scholarship program.”

Akaka earned two degrees and a specialty diploma from the UH Mānoa College of Education: a bachelor of education in secondary education in 1952; a five-year diploma in secondary education in 1953; and a master of education in educational administration in 1967.