Robert Worthington / 1936-2008
Kamehameha grad grew isle ties
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Robert Eugene Worthington, who served as the Cook Islands' honorary consul to the United States and retired as Kamehameha Schools' financial aid director, died Aug. 14. He was 72.
"Bob was such an unusual visionary," said Gerard Finin, a longtime friend, colleague and deputy director of the Pacific Islands Program at the East-West Center. "He said to people, 'Let's travel to the independent islands and talk to the prime ministers and presidents about nationhood.'
"He was an incredible influence behind the scenes. Even before the Hawaiian renaissance in the 1970s, he already envisioned how Hawaii and Hawaiians could reconnect with the South Pacific."
Worthington, who had married a Cook Islander, moved to the Cook Islands for several years and returned to Hawaii in 1974.
"Every time you see someone wearing a Cook Island maile lei in Hawaii, it's because of the work Bob did with local business people to import maile from the Cook Islands," Finin said.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Geoffrey Henry, who will attend his memorial services, said, "Bob was always there, incessantly helpful, with iconic efficiency, grace and enthusiasm. He helped secure the support of the governor of Hawaii, allowing us to establish our first office in the United States."
Born in Waikiki, Worthington had a hardscrabble childhood and difficult family situation, and was accepted into Kamehameha School for Boys as a boarding student, Finin said.
Worthington graduated from Kamehameha in 1955, attended Occidental College on a scholarship and graduated with a degree in political science.
He served as director of financial and scholarship services at Kamehameha Schools from 1974 to 2003.
While there, he saw a need to have a more international body of students and established exchange programs with New Zealand, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and American Samoa.
Worthington also served on the executive board of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.