Remarks to UHAA Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner
by UH Mānoa Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw
Aloha! First of all, mahalo nui loa to everyone here for supporting your university and especially for your personal friendship — I am so very grateful for both.
Marcel Proust said “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Mahalo to all of you for being those “charming gardeners.” My heart is constantly filled with gratitude for so many reasons — I’ll give you my top ten — in chronological order:
- Having parents who always told me their hearts smiled when they looked at me — it took me a while to realize that not everyone felt that way — but they always did. They also taught me that “home is where you are” — so, in moving a lot, we quickly learned and embraced our new home — like I felt when I first came to Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i is our home and will continue to be.
- Meeting my high school sweetheart who became my lifetime partner — my husband Bill — next year we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Bill is definitely a keeper and has always been my greatest supporter — plus Bill has served UH Mānoa very well in building community relationships and supporting our programs. Mahalo, Honey.
- Studying with my major professor in graduate school, Dr. Emilio Mora — a Mexican immigrant who created opportunities for underrepresented folks — as a woman in science, I fit in that group. I also knew I had to provide such opportunities for others during my career as well, so endowing scholarships ensures that outcome for generations to come.
- Being blessed with our sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren who brighten our lives and love us, regardless of what anyone else says.
- Being privileged to work in higher education which does transform people’s lives and also researching influenza viruses, a significant global disease — a wonderful experience.
- Coming to Hawai‘i to join UH Mānoa — I had actually wanted to spend the latter part of my career in a minority serving institution to create more opportunities for underrepresented folks and was grateful that UH Mānoa offered that - as well as being a leading public research university — one which is more important to its state than any other in which I have worked. That has been very meaningful to me.
- Working with dear Mānoa colleagues (vice chancellors, deans, directors, students, faculty, staff, alumni, retirees), donors, legislators, friends - people across Hawai‘i and the world — all committed to our making progress — and we have made a lot of progress by working hard and working together. What an honor to see so many of you folks here tonight. I love progress and Bonnie Blair said it well, “Winning doesn't always mean being first. Winning means you're doing better than you've ever done before.” We must always keep trying to be better — that approach gives me great joy.
- Respecting and enjoying people — I really appreciate the people who support our progress — the tax-payers — the people who valet your car, serve you in a restaurant, grow your food, work in government, heal your body and the list goes on. People here often ask me why I attend so many community events, including athletics — my answer: that is where the people are and we need to connect with them. To know UH Mānoa is to love us but people need to know us, especially since they support us with their voices and resources — folks like you.
- Serving as chancellor allows me to participate in the Mānoa experience — a unique multicultural global experience in a Hawaiian place of learning. That is our hallmark and only we can do that. Also, I love to learn and there are so many kumu with wisdom and knowledge in Hawai‘i and certainly in this room tonight. I have been blessed to learn from all of you.
That surely includes the people being honored here tonight — I am privileged to be in their company. They have contributed so much and set examples for all of us. Such kumu have definitely influenced my perspective — just last week, I participated in panels at a national meeting on energy — many wonderful innovations which always intrigue me but I focused my words on the need to care for the earth (malama honua) and educate the public about adopting new advances. Hawaiʻi has helped me listen, learn and understand more broadly about such responsibilities.
- In closing, I surely want to express my gratitude to UHAA and Doug Inouye for his leadership — I am a proud lifetime member of UHAA even though I am not an alum. Because of UHAA, I have connected with so many wonderful alumni around the world — they are our greatest contribution to society and they have passion for their university - I share that passion. My greatest hope is that people like you — our ‘ohana of “charming gardeners” — keep caring for and supporting your UH Manoa garden, so that the university can continue to blossom and fully contribute to caring for each other and this earth that we all share.
Mahalo nui loa!