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Street view of Hawaii C C Palamanui road and portrait of Rockne Freitas

In a fitting tribute, the main entry road to Hawaiʻi Community College–Pālamanui has been officially named after the late Rockne Freitas, the former Hawaiʻi CC chancellor who played a major role in developing the campus on Hawaiʻi Island. Before Pālamanui opened in August 2015, West Hawaiʻi had been the only major population center in the state without a permanent facility for higher education.

A dedication ceremony that included kīpaepae—a ceremony for the introduction and transition into new spaces—was held on February 10, when the new Rockne Freitas Way sign was also unveiled.

Raynette “Kalei” Haleamau-Kam, director of Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui, knew Freitas for decades and worked with him when he served as chancellor at Hawaiʻi CC.

“I would like to mahalo Rockne for his leadership and tenacity to not give up on our community. Now it is up to us to continue his vision and preserve his legacy,” said Haleamau-Kam. “He would extend his hand to those in the back row, encouraging them to step forward and embrace greater opportunities to service the community. I am a testament to Rockne’s dedication to pulling people from the shadows and urging them to make a bigger impact.”

The UH Board of Regents approved the honorific naming in August 2023. Freitas, who died in 2022, served in many leadership roles at UH, including as Hawaiʻi CC chancellor from 2004 to 2010. He was a driving force in securing funding and establishing the partnerships that would enable the Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui campus to be built.

Taupouri Tangaro with musicians and chanters

When he served as chancellor of Hawaiʻi CC, Freitas spurred Taupouri Tangarō, the current director of Hawaiian culture and protocols engagement for Hawaiʻi CC and UH Hilo, to develop the kīpaepae. The ceremony is now requested to enrich special occasions and events about 50 times a year.

“Rockne did not lead from a distance, from behind closed doors. Rockne was in our offices, our classrooms, in our ceremonies,” said Tangarō. “It was clear, always, how proud he was of how we intersected Hawaiian culture and academics. Rockne’s famous saying, ‘What’s good for the Hawaiian is good for the world!” is true! When aloha is our anchor and our lead, nature smiles, and we smile. This is Rockne’s way!”

The symbolism of the naming of Rockne Freitas Way resonated with his family, who said that Freitas believed that education was a path forward.

Rockne Freitas' sons

“He said to be a lifelong learner. Every day you should be learning something different, and through that process of education, you are also building relationships. It was of huge importance to us growing up,” recalled son Makai Freitas.

Son Makoa Freitas said, “The legacy I would think he would want is one of education. How life really is all about education and through education you can change lives and you can do things for the better.”

Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui offers associate degrees and certificate programs. The campus also serves as a University of Hawaiʻi Center, with more than 60 certificates, bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees from campuses across the UH system.

By Kelli Abe Trifonovitch

Hawaiʻi CC main entry road
Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui
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