HPU leader Wright to retire in June of next year


POSTED: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hawaii Pacific University President Chatt Wright announced yesterday that he will retire on June 30, 2011, ending the tenure of one of the country's longest-serving private-university presidents. HPU's board of directors will appoint a search committee later this month to replace Wright, who will be just shy of his 70th birthday when he steps down.

“;I've been talking about this for about a year,”; said Wright, who wanted to ensure a smooth transition by allowing an overlap with the new president. Though he plans to volunteer his fundraising skills to help the university with its ambitious expansion project on the Windward side, he also wants time to read, travel, play tennis and engage in his great passion of fly-fishing.

Wright started in 1972 as the founding dean of the business college at what was then Hawaii Pacific College—an institution with 57 students. By the time he became president in 1976, he presided over 500 students and an annual budget of $1.2 million. Now Hawaii Pacific University, along with its affiliate, Oceanic Institute, employs more than 1,000 faculty and staff for 8,200 students. Annual revenues exceed $105 million. According to those who know him well, much of the university's success can be attributed to Wright.


“;He's a man of irrepressible energy,”; said Bruce Anderson, former president of the Oceanic Institute and currently director of health and science programs at HPU, and a fishing buddy of Wright's. “;I've been impressed with his capacity to take on problems and issues, and he's always done so in a fearless way. There's no one like him.

“;He has done a remarkable job of building a private university from almost nothing to a leading institution in Hawaii. It's going to be interesting to see what happens after he leaves, because he's been such a strong force there for so many years. His successor is going to be hard pressed to fill his shoes.”;

Wright's intuition, ability to adapt to changing needs in the community and beyond, as well as his strong management style and enviable marketing skills, have allowed HPU to remain nimble and viable in challenging economic times—without significant layoffs or budget cuts. For instance, the university responded to a nursing shortage by creating what Anderson describes as an extraordinary program to train nurses.

Despite his leadership, Wright was quick to redirect credit to his faculty and staff, saying, “;It wasn't me alone; we've developed a real team here.”;

HPU Board Chairman Chuck Sted noted that Wright has brought an entrepreneurial spirit to higher education in Hawaii that is reflected in its innovative programs.

“;Fortunately, that spirit won't be diminished when Chatt retires, because it's now part of the fabric of the school,”; Sted, also president and chief executive of Hawaii Pacific Health, said in a statement.

Of his many accomplishments, Wright is most proud that HPU was one of the first American universities to actively recruit students from all over the world, and create a mission and ethos to “;educate for a global citizenship.”; Beyond traditional instruction, the university also has become more involved with research and scholarly work. “;Now we need new, fresh leadership to go beyond,”; said Wright.

Anderson, who also served as director of the state Health Department before joining HPU's Oceanic Institute, confirmed that Wright is always looking ahead.

“;His heart and soul are in that institution,”; said Anderson. “;It's like a child to him.”;