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Students in film production
Justin Gerald Ocampo and a group of eight other students received a grant to finish a short film.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoaʻs College of Arts, Languages & Letters (CALL) awarded for the first time the Elizabeth Spann Student Enrichment Fund this year. From biblical research to producing a short film, 15 undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines were able to complete projects and seize opportunities to enrich their college experiences because of the Elizabeth Spann Student Enrichment Fund.

The gift finances projects that enhance students’ academic experiences outside the classroom, including research, travel, equipment, conference attendance, participation in performances, exhibitions or competitions. The college dean may also use the fund to accomplish strategic goals for CALL. The 2023 awardees aptly reflect Spann’s broad interest and life experience.

Elizabeth Spann
Elizabeth Spann

One student purchased software to help with biblical research. Two presented their research at professional conferences; a linguistics conference in Oregon and a conference of Renaissance scholars in Puerto Rico. A duo produced a podcast. Another student traveled to Oklahoma to conduct research on oral storytelling and photography and a group of nine students completed a short film and submitted it to film festivals.

Justin Gerald Ocampo and a group of eight other students from ACM: The School of Cinematic Arts received a grant to complete the production of Kunyari, their romantic comedy short film “with a distinctly Filipino-American identity.” The grant paid for festival submission fees, promotional materials, and travel to film festivals where the film has the potential to be entered for awards.

“The Elizabeth Spann Student Enrichment Fund has enabled our team to share our work with all audiences, but most especially members of the Philippine diaspora, at state, regional and international film festivals,” Ocampo said. “This grant allowed us to remain competitive and viable in the distribution of our film, a phase where independent filmmakers are usually constricted by a lack of funding and studio support.”

The Elizabeth Spann Student Enrichment Fund is named for Elizabeth “Betty” Spann. Always an adventurer, right out of high school she joined the Navy and landed in Hawaiʻi. After that, she lived in Milan, Italy, and worked with a high-end fashion designer. “Homesick” for Hawaiʻi, she returned and made a career as an airline executive at Pan Am and later a manager at Schuler Homes. Spann was a curious lifelong learner and avid reader, particularly in music, art, literature and philosophy. She traveled frequently and extensively through every continent except Antarctica.

“Elizabeth Spann loved humanities, she loved the arts, she loved learning, she loved travel,” said CALL Dean Peter Arnade. “And so, I’m very grateful that this endowment in her memory is gifted to our college.”

Elizabeth Spann died in 2019. Her husband, Jay Lowell Rego, died in 2020 and had directed a major portion of his trust to the UH Foundation. His trustee, Lee Putnam, a long-time UH employee and former UH regent, worked with the dean and the UH Foundation to establish the fund in Spann’s honor. Putnam also made a personal gift to jumpstart awards in the fundʻs first year.

“Betty would be hugely gratified to know her contribution to augmenting student success,” Putnam said. “I’m sure she would also be enormously proud of each and every one of these students and their accomplishments.”

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