Friday, January 24, 2003

A gee-whiz-bang
techno tourism center

Decades of leadership and advocacy in travel industry management education did not get Dean Emeritus Chuck Gee's name up in lights.

It is, however, on the new Gee Technology Learning Center at University of Hawaii at Manoa, being blessed today.

The center in the Travel Industry Management school features state-of-the-art videoconferencing capabilities, a multi-media computer lab with Smartboard technology, and a multi-purpose computer room and laboratory.

It is geared to teach students via on-campus and distance-learning programs; will allow TIM School faculty to share expertise with other educational institutions around the world; and can supplement the school's programs for industry professionals.

Funding came largely through donations from TIM International, the TIM School's alumni association and endowments from Kitaro Watanabe, and Leong Hop and Bernice C. Loui.

Through his 23 years as dean, Gee and others at the TIM School battled for resources and were regularly frustrated at the funding lavished elsewhere.

Students Christianne Choy, left, and Alicia Tashiro chatted with Chuck Gee yesterday in the multimedia room of the Chuck Gee Technology Learning Center at the University of Hawaii's School of Travel Industry Management.

Such as, on the football team, perhaps? The question brought a burst of laughter from Gee.

Tourism is the largest industry in the state, he said. "Our total economy is built on this and we always seemed to be a little short-shrifted. We had to turn to the alumni and others," he said.

Gee is excited and honored to have his name on the building, but is more stoked about the learning that will go on inside.

Credit for what's inside and how it functions goes to TIM School interim associate dean Mark Hukill, interim Dean Pauline Sheldon, and Maureen McLeod, distance learning specialist, Gee said.

"Education in general is certainly a legacy," he said, "but to build a program, you're building on top of the work of many others, you didn't do it alone. You can never truly claim a legacy is your own. But then when you have a facility with your name on it, it makes it seem like you did something after all."

Gee was given his pick of retirement gifts by the alumni association in 1999, such as a car or watch.

"I love those $10.99 watches, I got my car not long ago," he said.

"You can't do anything for me personally," he told them, "but what's been on my mind is what computer technology we have at the TIM school is sadly outdated, outmoded."

Industry competition in the future will be among those with superior technological systems for buying and trading in tourism and travel, he said, and the new center will offer UH TIM students an edge in the quest to become the best.

Customer satisfaction studies are fine, he said, "but they're not good enough for owners who are saying the returns aren't good enough."

That means the job of leaders entering the industry will be to maximize productivity while maintaining the warmth of the aloha spirit, said Gee.

"The world is changing and what we need to do is have our students a little bit ahead of what is being done and apply their own imaginations to the possibilities, so that what labor we do use will be used in the hospitality areas," Gee said.

Beyond a watch or car, battles for funding and space pressed ahead, as did the alumni. Many labors come to fruition in opening ceremonies at 2 p.m. today.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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