Goddess mug shot

The Goddess Speaks


Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Mahalo to the secretary
who launched many
a media career

This space is normally reserved for those of us with the two X chromosomes to blather on about what pleases us and what ticks us off. We are, after all, the goddesses, although I personally prefer to be thought of as a princess.

Today, though, I'd like to turn this corner of the newspaper over to a true goddess/ princess/queen, although I will write the paragraphs as she would never blather on about herself.

Sharon Ishida, a big Elvis Presley fan, gets a hug from
Elvis impersonator Jonathan Von Brana at her
retirement party.

Sharon Ishida was for 27 years the secretary of the Journalism Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She kept the instructors and the courses organized, but most important, she kept the students -- all of us -- alive. We went on to commit journalism throughout the planet, mostly thanks to Sharon. In this state alone, you see our bylines in all the publications, our faces on all the television stations. And that's not even counting the ones who went on to careers in public relations, law and even --yikes -- politics.

Sharon -- we always called her that, even though we should've called her Mrs. Ishida or, at least, Your Highness -- reminded us what to register for and when, and if we forgot she would call secretaries in other departments to try and get us in. She found internships for many of us, even jobs. She never forgot a single one of us, not even those who moved away and never wrote (sorry about that). I think she even knew who we were dating.

Many hugs were given and many tributes were paid
to Sharon Ishida during her retirement party.

She told me to go ahead and leave Hawaii if that's what it took to stay in the profession -- "just don't forget to come back." And when I did return, she was the one I called to see what was going on and where there might be work. Thankfully, she did remember my name.

To all of my former instructors (John Luter, Tom Brislin, Pierre Bowman, Robert Scott, et al.), you guys were great and all, but it was Sharon who got me through J-school. To all of you who ostensibly ran the department (who were you, anyway?), you were probably great, but we all know Sharon was really in charge.

Anyway, Sharon retired at the end of June, just before her first grandchild was born. It seems that rather than continue dealing with babies ages 17 to 50, she prefers to coddle a real one.

On Sunday the Journalism Alumni Association threw Sharon a retirement party, complete with an Elvis impersonator. This is what she had to say: "I can die and go to heaven now." And that was before the Elvis guy came on.

Actually, these were her parting words, to all of us big babies: "Without you I would be just a secretary -- but proud to be a secretary. You brought excitement, great joy, a little bit of angst ... wonderful, wonderful years, and I will treasure them always."

Sharon, by example, taught me a truth that has served me well in life, work and reporting: Secretaries run the earth. I'm sure you know at least one, a woman (almost all are) who was quietly the power behind the throne. Yours was probably indispensable. But you know what? Ours was the best.

Sunday, many tributes were paid, most flowery, some poignant, all deeply felt. After all of that, I will stick to plain facts, as they taught us in J-school: Thanks, Sharon. You done good.

Talk is cheap; send money: A journalism scholarship fund has been set up in Sharon Ishida's name. To contribute, call Jan Kagehiro at 432-4983.

Betty Shimabukuro is a graduate of the UH journalism
program, never mind what year, and is now food writer
for the Star-Bulletin.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802, or send e-mail

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