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2007 Convocation Remarks by President David McClain

Sept. 5, 2007, Orvis Auditorium, UH Manoa


Regents, distinguished members of the legislature, chancellors and vice presidents, my colleagues on the faculty, members of our dedicated staff…

Aloha and welcome to our annual convocation honoring those among us who have been leaders in teaching, research and service to our community.

This is my fourth convocation as your president; in 2004 and the years since I’ve invoked the observations of a wide range of authorities, including the 17th-century Japanese poet Basho, Jim Collins of "Good to Great" fame and 20th century journalist and novelist Henry Adams…along with the lyrics of the Beatles and the Supremes.

Not to worry…I only sing in even numbered years.

Last year as I reviewed the state of the university, I counseled that we need to match the "gaiatsu" of outside pressure for better performance with a spirit of self-generated "naiatsu" (inside pressure) to operate more efficiently—and to insure that students who have access to UH achieve success as well, with less remediation, better articulation and transfer, better retention and improved graduation rates.

Last year I also talked with you about the wonderful example of centenarian Anna Sloggett. Anna, a contemporary of Gladys Kamakakuokalani Brandt, our former regent for whom the UH Manoa Center for Hawaiian Studies is named, taught third grade at public and private schools on Maui, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. She celebrated her 100th birthday last year by playing in a golf tournament in her honor and concluded her birthday party by dancing the hula.

This year finds us in the midst of our own 100th birthday party, and it certainly has been a time of joy and celebration, of memories and nostalgia.

Most of you have heard me talk about our humble beginnings…about our first football game in 1909, which we won, against McKinley High School.

I’ve spoken about the lives we’ve touched, one by one and generation by generation.

And I’ve recalled with pride the fact that, in the last century, UH has done more to advance social justice and economic self-reliance than any other institution in our state.

I know you are proud of these accomplishments too.

Today I want to focus on the university’s future and, in particular, on the power of philanthropy and partnerships to transform a very good university into a great one.

At the O‘ahu launch of the public phase of our Centennial Campaign on Aug. 18, 2007, I cited the vision of Jay and Wallette Shidler, who last fall invested more than $25 million at UH Manoa with a goal of moving the Shidler College of Business into the top 25 public business schools by 2013.

As Jay put it, it’s like the Beach Boys song, "Be true to your school."

One year later, the Shidler gift continues to make headlines across our university and in our community, and it will in perpetuity.

Pacific Business News, after taking a tour of the Shidler College of Business, declared, "Plants, pride and optimism seem to be growing everywhere."

In a nutshell, that is the power of philanthropy.

Each gift to benefit the University of Hawai‘i has impact. Not many of us can give an eight-figure gift, but the act of giving has deep meaning.

The sum of those gifts and how they are used can result in the difference between accomplishing dreams and merely dreaming.

To date, the Centennial Campaign has raised some $185 million toward our mid-2009 goal of $250 million.

I’m optimistic about our chances of exceeding that goal because potential donors know our partners are, well, doing their part. Permit me to give you some examples:

Also key to our fundraising success is our governance process, which received high marks last year by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in its visit to the UH System. As the newly formed Regents Candidate Advisory Council screens candidates for the Board of Regents, it will want to select individuals able to sustain this record of accomplishment.

In many respects, UH is better off today than we were three years ago, and we can all be proud of that. But there’s more to be done.

To be sure, we’ve made significant strides in promoting Hawaiian language, culture and values in our curriculum. At UH Hilo, we’ve launched a doctorate in indigenous language revitalization; at UH Manoa, we’ve created Hawai‘inuiakea, the School of Hawaiian Knowledge. Both are pathbreaking in a global context.

At our community colleges, as noted above, with the help of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kamehameha Schools the Achieving the Dream project is focused on insuring both access and success for Native Hawaiians.

We need to do more than we have done to insure that Native Hawaiians have access to these curricula.

In fact, we need to do more than we have done to insure that Native Hawaiians have access to the entire body of remarkable scholarship in the arts and sciences available on all our campuses.

We’re fond of saying that the University of Hawai‘i is "like no place else on earth," and we‘re proud that we’re one of the few universities designated a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant institution.

Or, as someone put it more poetically, our ahupua‘a runs from the ocean to the stars.

We need to do more to acknowledge the fact that the remarkable scholarship for which our faculty are renowned occurs in this unique physical and geographic environment, on land first populated many centuries ago by the Native Hawaiians.

Simply put, we need to acknowledge our role as stewards of these Hawaiian lands.

Last year some 3,000 Native Hawaiian students applied for financial aid. While more than 2,300 received some form of federal, state, UH or UH Foundation grant or scholarship, 700 were turned away.

The total value of UH aid provided was almost $2.5 million, including tuition waivers valued at $870,000.

In the spirit of stewardship, we can do better, and we must do better.

Accordingly, as I announced last evening at Nanaikapono Elementary School in Nanakuli, starting with the fall of 2008 we will create a Second Century Scholars program that, by the fall of 2010, will double need-based financial aid to Native Hawaiians to $5 million per year.

The UH System itself will lead this initiative, providing the additional resources to our campuses and working with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools and other Native Hawaiian education providers to insure that the Second Century Scholars program is well-publicized to undergraduate and graduate students alike.

Fulfilling the vision of our strategic plan, by 2010 many more Native Hawaiian children who aspire to be engineers or doctors or astronomers or marine biologists will know that they can pursue their dreams unfettered by financial restraints.

These Second Century Scholarships for Native Hawaiians with financial need provide a fitting way forward for your university as we embark on our next 100 years.

Speaking of second centuries, I’m pleased to report that Anna Sloggett has now turned 101. Wendie and I look forward to seeing her tomorrow night when we kick off the UH Centennial Campaign’s public phase on Kaua‘i.

Congratulations to all of today’s honorees. We’re grateful for your leadership and your commitment to the university and to the many, many communities we have served since 1907 and will serve in the century before us.