Let’s give UH a second century of promise
One hundred years ago, the University of Hawaii was born. Far from the world-renowned 10-campus system we have today, it all humbly began in a small house on Young Street.
On March 25, 1907, Territorial Gov. George Carter signed Act 24, which established the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.
In 1908 there were 13 faculty members teaching five freshmen and five preparatory students. Four years later, four students graduated from the college, with two receiving science degrees, one receiving an agriculture degree and one receiving an engineering degree.
Today, UH serves more than 50,000 students through 10 main campuses across the state; through educational centers in West Oahu, West Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and Lanai; and via distance learning technologies through the Internet, two-way video and cable television.
UH does much more than educate degree-seeking students. Each year, more than 75,000 people take noncredit courses, more than 33,000 people participate in university-sponsored conferences and training sessions, and nearly 130,000 people each year attend theatre, music and dance events at the university's four performing arts centers. And each year, nearly 700,000 people cheer on the UH athletic teams from Manoa and Hilo.
More than 250,000 UH alumni reside in all 50 states and in more than 80 countries around the world. The Hawaii Legislature boasts 38 alumni in the House of Representatives and 15 in the Senate.
The centennial gives all of us an opportunity to reflect on the many contributions the university has made to the state and to each one of us. Members of the faculty have enriched our parents, our children and all of us. They and the university have been our mentors and innovators, creating educated, committed individuals that enhance Hawaii's workforce and economy.
Researchers at the university have made significant contributions of the world's body of knowledge.
While the past 100 years have been worthy of praise, what I am most excited about is the future of UH. We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to shape the next 100 years.
The Legislature during the past couple of decades has unleashed our firm grip on the university. We granted the university increased administrative and financial flexibility, culminating in the UH flexibility constitutional amendment passed by the voters in 2000.
Those of us who were around during the 1995 legislative session recall a painful downturn in the economy. UH suffered greatly during this recession. Another downturn will come. It's not a question of if it will come, but when.
We cannot afford to neglect our university in the future. Because of this, we call upon the leaders of this state to come together today to work with us to ensure the continued prosperity of UH. Working with Rep. Jerry Chang and Sen. Norman Sakamoto, the two chairmen of our higher education committees, we will develop a plan to address the new partnership and relationship between the taxpayers, the students and the university.
This commitment will boldly go where no one has ventured before. Should we, for example, fund the university based on outcomes and benchmarks, such as graduation rates and job placements? Should we fund it based on its response to statewide needs and job shortage areas? Should we embark on a funding formula that prioritizes these outcomes and benchmarks?
One hundred years from now, what will they be saying about the university? What will become of it? Whatever it is, know that what we do today for and with UH does matter.
This centennial celebration honoring the good deeds of our alma mater is only as good as our combined commitment to ensure a brighter, more productive, more profound and far-reaching second century. It's a commitment to a second century of promise.
Each of us has our very own UH story. For me, the university has made me what I am today. I have been tied to the university for more than 22 years -- more than half of my life. As a recipient of a cherished college degree through an athletic scholarship from UH and a master's degree while working there, I owe much to our university.
I love our university. I'm proud of my alma mater. Our university and the future students have my commitment to do our very best for UH.
Here's to our commitment -- the second century of promise!
Happy Birthday, University of Hawaii!
Rep. K. Mark Takai (Aiea-Pearl City) received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. As a student, Takai was a WAC champion swimmer, Associated Students of UH president and Ka Leo editor-in-chief. He now serves as a board member of the UH Letterwinners' Club and is a life member of the UH Alumni Association.