U H Maui College grad with diploma

On a gorgeous Kahului day, the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College held on-campus, physically distanced 2021 commencement ceremonies on June 5, 2021. Chancellor Lui Hokoana emphasized that the overwhelming majority of the 600 UH Maui College graduates and 121 UH Center graduates wanted it to be that way, and he was filled with joy and hope.

Woman performing opening oli

“This is the first large gathering since the pandemic,” Hokoana said. “It signals that we are returning to some semblance of normalcy.”

The ceremonies were governed by strict health and safety protocols—a limited number of graduates’ family members and friends were invited, chairs were set far apart and everyone in the audience and all graduates were required to wear masks, even though the event was outdoors.

Amid all the usual pomp and circumstance, which was anything but usual this year, the chancellor praised the students, faculty and staff for persevering through a most challenging pandemic year and for serving Maui Nui valiantly throughout.

Sheldon Simeon
Sheldon Simeon

Hokoana said, “They are distinguished by their service—our nursing students administered vaccines from the beginning, our culinary students served the vaccination clinic volunteers from the beginning, our engineering techs made face shields, our campus served contact tracers with classroom space, and our campus remains a mass vaccination site.”

The commencement speaker at the late afternoon ceremony was, arguably, the culinary arts program’s most famous graduate. Chef Sheldon Simeon, owns the restaurant Tin Roof in Kahului with his wife Janice, competed on Bravo’s Top Chef (two-time fan favorite) and authored the cookbook Cook Real Hawaiʻi. Simeon donned his UH Maui College culinary arts chef’s coat for the first time in two decades, and gave all the graduates some good advice.

“Give your best to the ones who matter most, always work as hard as you can and the right people will notice, and never skimp on the aloha,” Simeon said.

There was plenty of aloha on display at the beautiful UH Maui College 2021 commencement ceremonies.

Graduates seated