Video by David Corrigan, Voice of Stephanie Salazar
HILO, Hawaii – Thousands of smiling faces filled the stands and the floor of the Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium on Saturday. The spring commencement for the University of Hawaii at Hilo was a day of milestones, with many firsts and lasts.
One “last” was for an emotional UH system president, M.R.C. Greenwood. Greenwood recently announced she will retire in September. In a media release, she said her reasons for making the decision are personal, health-related, and family oriented.
Another set of “lasts” was described in the speech of Ashlee Kalauli, the Class of 2013 student speaker. Born in San Diego, California and raised in Honoka`a, Kalauli maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.87 while earning numerous academic honors and awards. Kalauli is a mathematics major with a minor in chemistry, and she was among a select group of students chosen for the 2012 Pacific Undergraduate Research Experience in Mathematics (PURE Math) program.
It was also a day of firsts: The first doctors of pharmacy graduated two years ago, but this year, as Dean John Pezzuto points out, they were the first “Daniel K. Inouye” College of Pharmacy graduates.
Present for Saturday’s commencement, the widow of the late U.S. Senator, Irene Hirono Inouye, who brought with her a special gift for her husband’s namesake college.
The future for the institution is uncertain, thanks in part to a disappointing state legislative session for the college. Lawmakers passed a biennial budget that did not include the funding needed for a new, already-designed building, placing the accreditation of the college in jeopardy. The private sector has begun to rally around the cause, like Mina Pharmacy in Hilo, which donated $20,000 to the building fund on Thursday.
Dean John Pezzuto told the crowd on Saturday that the legislative setback will not deter the mission of the college.
University officials say 120 degrees were handed out to students of the College of Pharmacy. Also, 460 diplomas were given to students in Arts and Sciences… 27 to Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management… 53 in Business and Economics… 46 for students of the College of Hawaiian Language. There were also 33 other candidates for various post graduate honors, and another 26 certificates in the Teacher Education Program.
It wasn’t only students getting recognition for their hard work. There were also some members of the UH-Hilo faculty bestowed with honors.
Rayna Morel, an instructor in the university’s Communications Department, was the recipient of the chancellor’s award for excellence in teaching.
Dr. Kalena Silva, professor and former director of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, was bestowed with the 2013 Reagents award for excellence in teaching. Reagent Barry Mizuno did the honors.
Faith Mishina, Assistant Professor of Spanish, was given the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Assistant Professor of Horticulture at UH-Hilo’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management, Norman Q. Arancon, was also honored.
This year’s keynote speaker was U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard called upon her 2004 deployment to Iraq with the Hawai`i Army National Guard for perspective.