The new president for the East-West Center (EWC) will be University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa graduate and former U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Suzanne “Suzy” Puanani Vares-Lum, the institution announced on November 18. The first woman and first Native Hawaiian to lead the center will succeed outgoing President Richard R. Vuylsteke at the beginning of the new year.
The selection by the EWC Board of Governors ends the search for Vuylsteke’s replacement.
“I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to continue to advance the vision of the East-West Center,” Vares-Lum said. “The Indo-Pacific region presents many future opportunities and solutions to global issues, and the center is renowned as an inclusive space for bringing people of diverse histories and cultures together to build regional understanding through the sharing of ideas, perspectives and solutions for all of our communities. I truly believe that EWC, and Hawaiʻi, play a unique role in bridging East and West to address the critical issues that will impact our future generations.”
“Suzy Vares-Lum was selected from an impressive applicant pool of talented and experienced individuals,” said EWC Board of Governors Chair James Scott in making the announcement. “We are very confident that her breadth of successful leadership experience in the Indo-Pacific, as well as her strong interpersonal qualities, are a great match for the East-West Center.”
Vuylsteke will be starting a faculty position at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies after his departure from EWC.
“I am delighted with the board’s selection. Suzy has long been a great friend and partner of the center, and I am fully confident that she will further strengthen the center’s relevance and impact in the region. I look forward to working with her on a seamless transition,” Vuylsteke said.
Born and raised in Wahiawā, Vares-Lum earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master of education in teaching from UH Mānoa, and a master of strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. In 2019, she became a National Security Fellow of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and she is also an alumna of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. In 2017, she received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and in 2021 was awarded certificates of recognition for outstanding service to the State of Hawaiʻi.
As a major general in the U.S. Army, Vares-Lum advised the most senior officials at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, where she maintained key relationships among nations within the Asia Pacific Region. After retiring from the military in April after 34 years of service, she formed a consultancy on Indo-Pacific issues.
Although the University of Hawaiʻi and East-West Center are separate institutions, they have long been close partners and neighbors.