BY JIM DOOLEY – A $50,000 donation to the University of Hawaii Cancer Center from UH President M.R.C.Greenwood and her longtime partner, Patricia Johnson, has earned the couple prominent recognition at the front entrance of the new center.
On the entry wall above a koa bench seating area are raised metal letters which say, “M.R.C. Greenwood and Patricia R. Johnson Family.”
Lori Strelow, public information officer of the Cancer Center, said the English translation is, ”From the mountains to the sea, let us come together to share knowledge.”
Other individual benefactors have given even more generously to he center and will be recognized elsewhere at the facility, Strelow acknowledged.
Strelow was unable to respond to questions submitted yesterday about why Greenwood and Johnson were given the first and quite prominent place of recognition or when and how more generous donors will be recognized at the new 150,000-square foot center.
Strelow also said she could not immediately determine the cost of the koa benches, made from expensive hardwood trees native to the Hawaiian Islands.
Greenwood has come under withering criticism this year from state lawmakers and some UH faculty members for her handling of financial and management issues at the University.
In October, she claimed in a letter to the UH Board of Regents that the governor and lawmakers had defamed her and she demanded a $2 million settlement if her $427,500-per-year employment contract was terminated before its 2015 expiration date.
Greenwood later withdrew her letter and apologized for sending it.
The couple did not move into the traditional home of UH presidents, College Hill in Manoa Valley, because Johnson is disabled and the mansion was not handicapped-accessible.In addition to her salary, Greenwood receives a $5,000-per-month housing allowance which pays for a Waikiki condominium where she and Johnson live.
The couple’s donation was made through the University of Hawaii Foundation, which permits donors to keep their identities and contributions confidential.
But Greenwood and Johnson waived confidentiality and disclosed the $50,000 figure, Strelow said.
In a written statement, Greenwood said the donation was made “in recognition of the contribution the new cancer center will make to the lives of Hawaii residents, because Dr. Johnson is a breast cancer survivor, and because the family has deep emotional connections to Hawaii.”
Greenwood and Johnson are both distinguished research scientists in the field of nutrition. They served together on the faculty of the University of California at Davis before moving to Hawaii after Greenwood was hired as UH President in mid-2009.
Construction of the Cancer Center, behind the UH Medical School in the Kakaako waterfront area of Honolulu, began in October 2010 and has been substantially completed. Formal opening is scheduled for next year.
The construction budget was set at $120 million but the final bill tallied $103 million, according to Strelow.
The savings are being used for construction of additional lab space at the facility, Strelow said.
University of Hawaii Associate Vice President for Capital Improvements Brian Minaai reportedly played a central role in deciding the timing and placement of the Greenwood-Johnson display at the Cancer Center.
Minaai could not be reached for comment this afternoon.
Minaai was named in a 2009 lawsuit that alleged political cronyism in Cancer Center contract award procedures.
Minaai and the Board of Regents denied any improprieties but the regents voted in 2010 to pay $2.5 million to settle the suit.
It was filed by Townsend Capital, a Maryland firm selected as Cancer Center project manager by the regents in 2005.
The company sued after Minaai replaced the company with Kobayashi Group, a local firm described in the suit as having “close personal ties to university administrators and regents.”
Minaai worked from 2002-2005 as a Kobayashi Group project manager. He previously served as director of the state Transportation Department in Gov. Ben Cayetano’s administration.
Minaai said he had retained no financial or personal ties to Kobayashi Group or its principals and had no conflict of interest in carrying out his official duties as UH associate vice president for capital improvements.