UH Hilo student Matthew Therrien remembered with scholarship

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Margot Schrire, (808) 956-6774
Dir of Communications
Posted: Apr 8, 2015

Matthew Therrien
Matthew Therrien

Hawai‘i Island – Matthew Therrien was an aspiring English major at UH Hilo, with a dream of becoming an English professor. He was also a gifted poet, greatly loved son, and treasured friend at the time of his tragic death in a car accident April 6, 2014. When he passed the community was shocked and his warmth, humor and generosity is still sorely missed.

Stephen and Gloria Gainsley, good friends of the Therrien family, decided to build on Matthew’s remarkable legacy by starting the Matthew Somchai Therrien Award with a $5,000 gift. This annual writing award recognizes outstanding students majoring in English at UH Hilo.

“Our fondness and admiration for the Therrien family began in our college days in the 70's at UH Mānoa. Their annual family newsletter, full of photos and hilarious, sometimes serious, articles, written by each member of the family, kept us in touch over the years. This family activity may have been the genesis for Matt's creative writing enthusiasm,” said Gloria and Stephen Gainsley. “By initiating the Matthew Somchai Therrien Award we wish to honor both Matt's talent and love of writing, as well as the loving family who inspired him.”

Matthew grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin before following his heart and serving in AmeriCorps in Seattle where he worked with students facing multiple challenges. His passion for mentoring youth and helping them overcome personal and cultural barriers grew. When he joined his family and moved to Hawai‘i Island, he continued his community work by serving on the regional board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hawai‘i Island and worked at the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Island.

While at UH Hilo, Matthew’s talent as a writer was well-recognized. In 2012 he received the Droste Award for outstanding writing from UH Hilo, for a portfolio of original poems.

“Matthew Therrien was an extraordinarily gifted, multi-faceted, delightful student, who inspired not only his fellow students, but also his teachers to continue to think, write, and learn,” said UH Hilo Department of English Chair Kirsten Mollegaard. She continued, “The UH Hilo English department is grateful to the Gainsleys for their generous gift, which will be used to commemorate Matthew Therrien's legacy by promoting excellence in writing among our English majors.”

Matthew’s father Mark Therrien said, “Matthew loved English. He loved to read and he loved to write – poetry and prose. And he loved to analyze everything he read.” Therrien continued,

“Writing was a way for him to express his passion for social justice. Matthew believed that dialogue was the only way to end racism – to acknowledge its existence, to not be afraid to talk about it or write about it. Matthew was not afraid. Heartfelt thanks to the kind faculty and staff of UH Hilo who gave Matthew (and us) so much more than a diploma.”


To make a gift to the Matthew Somchai Therrien Award please visit www.uhfoundation.org/givetouhh. You can also contact the UH Hilo Development Office at (808) 933-1945.


The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations. www.uhfoundation.org

For more information, visit: www.uhfoundation.org