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Freitas, Bachman Hall
Rockne Freitas

Former UH vice president for student affairs Doris Ching remembers Rockne Freitas

Rockne Freitas was a man dedicated to educational opportunity and success for all students and, especially, for Native Hawaiians and other student populations previously underserved and underrepresented in higher education. Whether he served the University of Hawaiʻi as associate athletics director, vice president for university relations, or chancellor of a community college or four-year campus, Rockne never wavered from his advocacy for the educational success of Native Hawaiians—historically, one of the most underserved and underrepresented populations in higher education. His vision was to inspire Native Hawaiian students’ academic success as a means to elevate the economic and leadership status of Native Hawaiians in the State of Hawaiʻi.

As associate athletics director, Rockne initiated the Student Athlete Guidance Education program to help student athletes succeed both in athletics and in academics. As vice president for university relations, Rockne—with the vice president for student affairs—visited every public high school on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island, Kauaʻi, and Maui and met with school administrators, college counselors and athletics directors to strengthen school-college relations and gain insights into how the University of Hawaiʻi could more effectively serve students as they transitioned from high school to college.

More importantly, Rockne envisioned the University of Hawaiʻi as the world’s model Indigenous-serving higher education institution in leadership development and community engagement, gaining Hawaiian culture and language parity for Native Hawaiians. He was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao Plan in 2012. As chancellor of Hawaiʻi Community College and UH West Oʻahu, Rockne implemented the Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao Plan as he developed programs and steeped the campuses with Native Hawaiian culture and values. He furthered his vision with the buildout of the Pālamanui campus, a previously underserved region in higher education on the west side of Hawaiʻi Island. Today, his expansion of UH West Oʻahu with programs, faculty and staff, and state-of-the-art facilities such as the Creative Media Center is a center of higher education access for the population on the westside of Oʻahu so that it is no longer a historically underserved area in higher education.

Rockne Freitas’ legacy is his strong advocacy, actions and accomplishments for the advancement of Native Hawaiians and other underserved and underrepresented populations with opportunities to succeed academically, financially, culturally and in leadership in the university and in the community for current and future generations.

Doris Ching, former UH vice president for student affairs, associate dean of the UH Mānoa College of Education and UH West Oʻahu interim vice chancellor

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