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Regents’ Medals of Distinction

The Regents’ Medal of Distinction is awarded by the Board of Regents to Individuals of exceptional accomplishment and distinction who have made significant contributions to the university, state, region or nation or within their field of endeavor.

UH Executive Policy PDF on awarding of medals of distinction.

2019 Recipient

  • Chuck Gee, co-founder and longest-serving dean of the UH Manoa School of Travel Industry Management.

2009 Recipient

2008 Recipient

2007 Recipient

2006 Recipient

2005 Recipient

1999 Recipient

  • Noel P. Kefford, former College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources dean and author of the Industry Analysis System

1997 Recipients

  • George Chaplin, editor-in-chief of the Honolulu Advertiser for 26 years and honored by three nations for promoting better understanding between countries
  • Elmo Hardy, evolutionary biologist and world authority on big-headed flies important in agro-ecosystems
  • Hiroshi Tanaka, community advocate and education proponent instrumental in the development of UH Hilo
  • Mamoru Yamasaki, a staunch supporter of higher education during 33 years as a legislator
  • Wood Zimmerman, renowned entomologist on O‘ahu and a union activist on Maui

1996 Recipient

  • Gerald Sass, Freedom Forum executive supporting Asian studies fellowships at the University of Hawai‘i

1995 Recipients

  • Ernest Akamine, a UH plant physiologist who laid the foundation for handling tropical crops developed in Hawai‘i
  • Mackay Yanagisawa, the "shogun of Hawai‘i sports," a player, coach, manager, club owner and creator of the Hula Bowl Classic

1994 Recipient

  • Maya Angelou, a writer, educator, humanitarian and social activist hailed as one of the great figures in contemporary literature

Medal Recipient

Geraldine Yap Lee with Regent Dennis Hirota

William Kwai-Fong Yap

Presented posthumously, December 2009 UH Manoa commencement ceremonies.

Born in 1873, William Kwai Fong Yap left school at 13 to begin work. He held a number of positions and was the first person of Chinese decent to serve on the professional staff at the Bank of Hawai‘i.

Although Yap left school at an early age, he wanted children in the state, including his own eleven, to benefit from local, affordable education.

In 1919, with the assistance of College of Hawai‘i President Arthur Dean and Regent Wallace Farrington, Yap drafted and circulated a petition to expand the college as a university offering graduate degrees. The petition stated the need for a university to prepare people for careers and be a strategic point for Asia and Pacific relations.

Yap gained more than 400 signatures. On April 29, 1919, Senate Bill 76, An Act to Establish a University of Hawai‘i, was passed unanimously and signed into law.

Yap also established the first scholarship fund, later renamed the William Kwai-Fong Yap Memorial Scholarship. His legacy, continued by his family under the leadership of his daughter-in-law Grace Yap, was recognized in 1982 with dedication of the William Kwai-Fong Yap Memorial Room in Hamilton Library.

The medal was presented to his grandaughter, Geraldine Yap Lee, pictured with Regent Dennis Hirota. Photo by Pictureman of Hawai‘i.