University of Hawaii-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng, left, held a $1 million check yesterday, part of a $2.4 million donation to the school by Kay Keith and her husband, businessman and retired chemistry professor Alec Keith.

UH-Hilo receives
$2.4M donation

The record-setting private
contribution from a Big Isle
couple will fund scholarships

HILO >> While Hilo resident Kay Keith invited reporters into her seaside home for a news conference, her husband, retired chemist Alec Keith, sat alone in the dining room, writing a check.

The check was for $1 million, part of a $2.4 million commitment the Keiths made yesterday to fund scholarships at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

As to the remainder of the commitment, "It'll come along in time," Alec Keith said. "They're not going to spend it all this year."

The $2.4 million is the largest private donation ever made to any institution in the UH system, UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng noted. Scholarships derived from it will be granted as early as this fall, she said.

In 2000 the Keiths also donated $1.8 million to UH-Hilo in the form of an irrevocable trust that is to be left untouched until it grows to $6 million in 2017.

Scholarships from yesterday's donation will be available to students from anywhere in Hawaii or a Pacific island with a U.S. link. Students must have had at least a B average in high school and must maintain at least a C-plus average at UH-Hilo.

Students enrolled at UH-Hilo need only apply for financial assistance, and administrators will determine whether these or others scholarships are appropriate for them.

Tseng and Alec Keith, both holders of doctorates, noted that they were assisted throughout their education by scholarships.

"A student who works hard, shows potential and wants to go to college should not lose that opportunity because of financial considerations," said Keith, 71.

He allowed the donation to be announced publicly in the hope of encouraging others to make similar donations, he said.

Through his career as a professor and businessman, Keith registered about 150 domestic and foreign patents. He is one of the inventors of the nitroglycerin patch used to control chest pain and was previously chairman of the $5.3 billion company Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. He is also chairman of Gray Star Inc., a company that makes food irradiators.

In 1994, Keith donated $8.7 million in cash and stocks to the University of Oregon, where he earned his doctorate in genetics. His teaching career includes the University of California at Berkeley and Pennsylvania State University. He is also a member of the UH-Hilo Advisory Board.

The Keiths moved to Hilo in 1997 after making frequent visits to Hawaii starting in 1976.

"I really liked Hilo," he said. "I though it was a balanced community. It had a lot of real people. It was not dominated by the tourist industry."


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --