Thursday, June 18, 2015

President's Q&A

Why are you leaving HPU?

As I was turning 70, my wife Jerri and I thought it was a good time to take stock. 

HPU has weathered some tough financial challenges, but I worked with senior administrators to balance the budget and preserve our $65 million endowment, while continuing to pursue an ambitious development plan. HPU is in good shape today.

As much as Jerri and I both love Hawai‘i, we both felt it was a good time for us to move closer to our Boston-based grandchildren. For me personally, I dearly miss research and teaching, the real career I set off on so many years ago. And as much as administration has been a great opportunity to serve, I have never lost my love for the academic life.

Didn’t you have an extra year left on your contract beyond 2016?

I did have an option to serve for another year. However, when I joined HPU in 2011, I said that I would serve not less than three and no more than five years, and that still seems to be the right timeframe.

Looking at HPU today, we have made significant strides in putting HPU on a more sustainable path, making great progress in addressing serious financial challenges. With the full participation of the academic community, we produced a new Strategic Plan and followed the Strategic Plan with the production of a Master Plan for all three of our campuses.

As we enter the 2015-2016 academic year, we will have revitalized the Aloha Tower Marketplace and made it an anchor for the university and the community, and merged with the Oceanic Institute which has secured millions of dollars of research funds for the coming years. We are prepared to launch our capital campaign.

Perhaps most pleasing has been the development of a fully shared governance system that includes faculty, staff and students in critical decision-making. Vital to this was the faculty’s initiative in creating a Faculty Senate, which I was pleased to support.

I am confident that HPU will find success in these efforts, but it is important that the university have stable leadership for the next ten-plus years to give it the leadership support it needs. I want to give the Board of Trustees the opportunity to put a new leader in place to ensure the success of these important initiatives.

How would you describe your time at HPU?

It has been challenging, and extremely rewarding. My executive staff has come to think in “dog years” since the pace of change has been so fast.

What surprised you about HPU?

I was surprised to learn that HPU managed to develop into a private university that, even after the post-2009 decline, has over 6,000 students with only 200 bed spaces to support them.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your tenure here?

Our ability to manage the budget challenge and get it back in balance after the 2008-09 fiscal crash, while paying cash for the purchase of ATM and preserving our reserves at over $65 million.

What are you most proud of? What would you like people to remember you for?

I would like to be remembered as someone who put quality before quantity. HPU today is as large as many of America’s most prestigious private universities, so the emphasis over the last five years and going forward has to be on quality. We are quite big enough for excellence.
I am proud that we developed a new program of faculty development and peer review that will ensure a constant forward movement in faculty quality.

Because no one can run a university alone, it’s important that we put in place an excellent team of senior administrators.

I’m pleased to have participated with the Board of Trustees in being more involved in the big decisions, increasing their knowledge of higher education and being a strategic asset of the institution.

What do you hope to accomplish in your final year?

For the long term vitality of the institution, I want to advance open governance and fully launch the Faculty Senate and Staff Council.

For economic sustainability, as well as to advance our educational mission and keep our promise to the community, I think it’s important that we complete our work on turning the ATM from a failing retail project into a thriving community asset. I also want to get the Oceanic Institute running at full capacity again, and contributing to food, environmental and social sustainability in an island context.

My focus will also be on involving the community in the fundraising we need to do to make HPU all that it can be, and develop into the great private university that Hawai‘i needs and deserves.

Finally, I want to continue to foster a “culture of excellence” at HPU that respects the profound contributions of my predecessor, Chatt Wright, who gave us all the chances for excellence that now lie in front of HPU.

Letters announcing the president's retirement from Board of Trustees Chairman Joachim Cox and President Geoffrey Bannister can be found here: Cox letter and Bannister letter.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Commencement: A milestone in life's journey

A candle lighting ceremony at Student Orientation symbolizes
students' new journey, at HPU.
Reflecting back four years, I vividly remember welcoming members of the Spring 2015 Hawai‘i Pacific University graduating class and their families to the New Student Orientation Kick Off and Family Reception. This was also my first year serving as HPU president, so I was new to the HPU ‘ohana, too. The culmination of the orientation event was the candle lighting ceremony and the recitation of the student pledge. Sharing this HPU tradition symbolized the beginning of these students’ connection to their classmates, their alma mater and the HPU journey ahead.          

Fast forward to today. Nearly 900 HPU students will earn academic degrees, representing a broad range of disciplines, from International Business to Social Work, Computer Science to Diplomacy, Psychology to Nursing. Our graduates are from Hawai‘i, the mainland U.S. and nearly 50 nations around the world. They have experienced much of the world and much of Hawai‘i at HPU, an international learning community set in the rich cultural context of Hawai‘i. 

Each of today’s graduates has a different story to tell about their path to HPU, their subsequent journey at the University, and best of all, their plans and hopes for the future. One thing, however, remains the same for each of our nearly 900 graduates, HPU’s newest alumni. They have a bond with the University, each other and the more than 40,000 HPU alumni who comprise a vital network around the world.

The faculty, staff and administration of HPU are proud of all of our graduates. The sum of their accomplishments and sacrifices made to get to where they are today is commendable.

While their diplomas, the physical symbols of their hard-earned achievement, will be important to our graduates, it is also important not to forget what they stand for. Our graduates received an education, not just a credential. I hope the diploma serves as a reminder to continue on the path of being a life-long learner.  And we challenge our graduates to use the knowledge they gained at HPU not only to make a mark for themselves in the world but to make their communities — wherever that may be — better places.   

To our graduates, congratulations, and mark your calendars for Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, for HPU’s 50th anniversary celebration at the newly reimagined Aloha Tower Marketplace. It will be a homecoming of sorts, and we hope to see you there! We wish you well on your journey beyond HPU and look forward to hearing of your successes along the way. For now, we say a hui hou, until we meet again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Aloha to Nepal

Sanjeev Ranabhat
Our thoughts are with HPU student Sanjeev Ranabhat, his family, and all those affected by the earthquake. All of us at HPU are proud of our diverse student body, representing so many parts of the world, and that means we also share their sadness and loss. I encourage all of our HPU ʻOhana — faculty, staff, and students — to do all we can to support those who have suffered as a result of the devastation. Please read Sanjeev’s article at

Geoffrey Bannister