Former bank president Rich Wacker and his wife, Eileen, have committed a $250,000 gift to the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation in support of the UH Mānoa’s Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) project, a world-class innovation and entrepreneurship facility coupled with student housing on the site of the former Atherton YMCA across from the flagship campus.
The live-learn-work community at RISE will be operated by the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE).
“We think this project is a clear demonstrative statement by the university of its commitment to entrepreneurship, innovation and diversifying the economy of Hawaiʻi for our kids and for the community,” said Rich Wacker, chair of the UH Foundation Board of Trustees. “The unique thing about this is the live, work, study aspect of it—it’s unique among universities across the country.”
Rich Wacker is also a current member and former chair of the PACE board of directors and vice chair of the Hawaii Pacific Health board of directors. He served as president and CEO of American Savings Bank for more than 10 years, and past president of the Hawaiʻi Bankers Association. He is a past chair and current innovation chair of the Hawaiʻi Business Roundtable and the Hawaiʻi Executive Collaborative’s CHANGE innovation economy chair.
Eileen Wacker is an author of a series of children’s books, and founder of ONCEKids, a children’s literacy project. She is a member of the board of the Kapiʻolani Health Foundation for the Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children and a former board member at Assets School in Honolulu. The Wackers are parents of four children, the youngest of whom just started college this fall.
“Our main passion is for the next generation of people in Hawaiʻi to think differently in a more interdisciplinary way and to be trained for the uncertainty that we’re all going to face in the business environment,” Eileen Wacker said. “We think of it not as a donation but an investment because it’s what we would want our kids to have.”
The Wackers’ gift is the one of the largest individual gifts toward PACE’s goal of raising $3 million to fund the RISE center’s furnishings, fixtures and equipment along with operational programs and student scholarships over the first 10 years.
“Mahalo to Rich and Eileen for this generous personal commitment that reflects their dedication to giving back to the Hawaiʻi community,” said Tim Dolan, CEO of the UH Foundation and UH vice president of advancement. “We are grateful for their forward-thinking philanthropy and investment not only in UH students, but in Hawaiʻi’s innovation economy of the future.”
Exterior demolition of the existing Mary Atherton Richards House at the corner of University and Seaview avenues began Tuesday, September 28, and is scheduled to be completed in November. Interior demolition of the historic pink Charles Atherton House and its additional wings will follow.
Groundbreaking on the new six-story modern building, which will wrap behind the Charles Atherton House, is scheduled for January. When completed in 2023, RISE will have 7,263 square feet of multi-purpose co-working, meeting, lab and classroom space, as well as 374 dormitory beds for undergraduate and graduate students.
The $70 million project is being developed by a public-private partnership between UH, Hunt Development Group and the UH Foundation, which purchased the one-acre site on University Avenue in 2017 for $8 million. The tax-free bond financing will be repaid using dormitory fees; no taxpayer funds are being used for the project.
Moss is the general contractor on the project, The Wilhelm Group is the construction manager and Design Partners Inc. is the lead architect.