For professor, success meant getting involved


POSTED: Tuesday, June 23, 2009
This story has been corrected.  See below.

For University of Hawaii political science professor Ira Rohter, open government, citizen participation and public policy nurturing the environment weren't just subjects for academic discussion.

Rohter lived what he taught. He was founder of the Hawaii Green Party and a leader of the Hawaii Clean Elections organization and the Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. He testified before state and county lawmakers about campaign finance reform, alternative energy resources and preservation of agriculture and conservation lands. He was a frequent contributor to the opinion pages of local news publications.

Rohter, 70, died yesterday in Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center. He became ill last week after returning from a trip to the Pacific Northwest.

In a Star-Bulletin column last October, Rohter urged moving from Hawaii's “;obsolete form of government, based on monarchy and plantation-style, top-down rule”; into the “;citizen involved governance practiced elsewhere.”;

Rohter joined the UH faculty in 1968 and through the next four decades brought students beyond the classroom and into the community and halls of government. He taught courses called “;Politics of Hawaii,”; “;Political Ecology and Development”; and “;Environmental Politics.”; In 1992, he wrote “;A Green Hawaii: Sourcebook for Development Alternatives.”;

“;He pushed his students to think beyond the pages of the text and into the real-world implications of political action,”; said state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz. “;He understood the need for Hawaii to achieve economic and environmental sustainability and made it his mission to build a new generation of political activists.”;

UH colleague George Kent said, “;He was passionate about politics. He wanted to see more grass-roots activism and the government serving the people rather than the other way around. He was engaged with the issues. Winning wasn't the mark of success. It was the engagement that matters.”;

Kent said, “;We in political science have the freedom to criticize. It's our duty to express ourselves. Otherwise, it's a waste of tenure ... not just to describe facts but to hold the system accountable. We always talked politics, about the scoundrels in government. The names changed, but the adjectives stayed the same.”;

Grace Furukawa worked with Rohter on several fronts, including Hawaii Clean Elections, which was renamed the Hawaii Elections Project to placate politicians. She said Rohter made an impact in their many appearances on bills before the Legislature.

“;He was very forthright, he was knowledgeable and up to date,”; she said. “;He helped organizations by writing so well, being an articulate voice on the subject.”;

Rohter was born in Chicago and earned a doctoral degree from Michigan State University.

He is survived by his wife Karen; son Alon; daughter Shahna; sister Sharlene Rohter of Honolulu and brother Laurence of Chicago. Funeral service arrangements are pending.







Professor Ira Rohter was 70 when he died.  Originally, this article had an incorrect age. Also, the spellings of the names of his daughter Shahna and brother Laurence were misspelled.