$9.2 Million Donation to UH Foundation Among the Largest to Benefit Students and Research

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Photo of Hale-Bopp comet by IfA alumnus Wei-Hao Wang

An inspired donor has made one of the largest gift commitments to the University of Hawai‘i by a private individual to benefit UH students and research.

The donor’s $9.2M gift will:

  • Fund scholarships for underrepresented students on 10 campuses;
  • Expand our knowledge of the universe;
  • Fuel research in microbial oceanography and grow our knowledge of the tiniest organisms so important to a healthy ocean ecosystem;
  • Help build an advanced culinary training facility in Hawai‘i;
  • Help people live better for longer;
  • Save Hawai‘i’s endangered plants.

Through endowed and expendable accounts in the following areas, this donor’s impact will be immeasurable for many years to come.

Director’s Chair in Astronomy at the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at UH Mānoa

These funds will give the IfA Director flexibility to enhance the IfA’s programs, and advance the education and research missions of IfA. Funds will be used to recruit and retain talented faculty, support quality research and provide seed research funding, particularly among promising junior faculty.


“IfA does not have any endowed chairs but we have one of the largest faculty groups in the whole U.S. astronomy,” said Dr. Günther Hasinger, astronomer and IfA director. “With an endowed chair we will be able to bring some of the best faculty members and graduate students here because it gives flexibility that otherwise is not possible.” Hasinger continued, “IfA contributes to our very understanding of the universe. It also excites young people and inspires them to think about careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.”


Chair in Microbial Oceanography at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at UH Mānoa

The chair will support, reward, and help retain talented faculty. Examples of how funds may be used include a salary supplement for the chairholder, program support for research and education, support for graduate student research assistants, and graduate and undergraduate student internships and travel.


This gift will be used by a team of scientists at UH and the Center for Microbial Oceanography Research and Education (C-MORE) to promote our research and education missions,” said Dr. David Karl, director of C-MORE & Hawai‘i  Ocean Time-series (HOT) program co-P.I. ” In addition to doing pioneering, frontline research and microbial oceanography our Center has developed innovative tools and techniques for educating the public at large.”

Dr. Karl continued, “Microbial oceanography is the study of the tiniest organisms in the ocean, the microorganisms. These organisms dominate the biomass of the ocean. These organisms are very important for the ocean’s health. They provide food for most of the food web, harvest solar energy, degrade most of the pollutants that we pour into the ocean every day, and are fundamental for the biodiversity of our planet. Most of the unknown diversity is in the microbial world and we are trying to understand that diversity.” Karl continued, “We do this by conducting experiments at sea, and using mathematical models to predict what the future states of the ocean will be under climate change.”

The Culinary Institute of the Pacific (CIP) facility  

This gift supports the Culinary Institute of the Pacific Planning, Design and Construction Expendable Fund which is used for planning, permitting, design and construction of the new CIP at Diamond Head project. In recognition of this leadership gift, the CIP at Diamond Head signature restaurant facility’s main dining room will be named after the donor.

“One of the premier programs within the community colleges is culinary education. We have almost 800 students enrolled across the state in 6 different programs,” said Dr. John Morton, vice president for community colleges. “Some of Hawai‘i’s  best chefs are products of these programs. But we’ve never had the opportunity for them to get an advanced training without going away to the mainland. So we’ve created this vision on the slopes of Diamond Head, building an advanced culinary institute that would lead students to get more skills in culinary and also the business skills that they need to be successful as restaurateurs in the hospitality industry.” Morton concluded, “That project is happening after many years of planning, thanks in part to gifts like this.  It’s going to be fantastic!”

Professorship in Geriatric Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) at UH  Mānoa

The professorship will support efforts to reward and retain talented faculty.  The funds may be used in many ways including a salary supplement for the professorship recipient, program support,  travel by the recipient to other universities and medical schools, government agencies, and industry visits, educational opportunities, support for graduate student research assistants, and support for graduate and undergraduate student internships and travel.

“This gift will help us support two faculty members on an ongoing basis who will contribute to both training and research in geriatric medicine. Expertise in geriatric medicine is very important for Hawai‘i as we have one of the oldest populations in the U.S.,” said Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean, JABSOM. “We know that as we age a variety of conditions can develop. Having faculty who are focused on understanding the physiology of aging, and how to work hand-in-hand with the patient to have healthy aging, is really a key part of our training program,” Hedges continued. “We have a wonderful teaching program, and are doing some phenomenal research in geriatrics and work in the community. This gift will greatly enhance our ability to build our training and research programs and better serve Hawai‘i’s people.”

Support the construction of the Hawaiian Rare Plant Conservation Lab at the Lyon Arboretum at UH Mānoa

This gift will support the construction of the Hawaiian Rare Plant Conservation Lab Fund through an expendable account.

“Hawaiian flora is one of the most unique in the world. Of the 1200 or so native plant species that we have in Hawai‘i, 90% of them occur nowhere else on the face of the earth,” said Dr. Christopher Dunn, director, Lyon Arboretum. “We also have the dubious distinction of having the most endangered flora in the world. The U.S. government has listed 350 of our native plant species as threatened or endangered. We have a great challenge ahead of us in safeguarding our precious and fragile natural heritage.” Dunn continued, “At present, we are storing in tissue culture about 160 of the 350 rare species in vials, including five that are now extinct in the wild. This allows us to store 1000s of plants in a relatively small space,” Dunn concluded. “Our vision has been to have at least 500 species in tissue culture, along with seeds that we can use for future restoration into nature, by 2020 – all housed in the new state-of-the-art facility. This gift will allow us to achieve that vision.”

Scholarships to attend any University of Hawai‘i campus

This gift will fund scholarships up to full tuition, for up to four consecutive years to undergraduate students in any area of study at any campus in the University of Hawai‘i System.  Recipients must be full-time, undergraduate students and show academic promise. Preference may be given to students in underrepresented groups as determined by the University.

“This gift will greatly help students on their personal and academic journeys. For many of the students, this means entering the system through the community colleges and then transferring to a baccalaureate institution if a four year degree is their chosen path,” said Dr. John Morton, vice president for community colleges. He continued, ” Without scholarship support, many students, particularly our underrepresented groups, find the transition from affordable community colleges to the more expensive baccalaureate institutions, overwhelming. Scholarships make this transition much easier and allow students to apply themselves to their studies and ultimately succeed and graduate.”

Charitable estate and income tax planning is an exciting way to fulfill philanthropic goals, because such a gift can provide support to the University of Hawai’i and multiple financial and tax benefits to a donor and his or her family. Please contact Lani Starkey, JD, LLM, CPA, Director of Estate and Gift Planning at (808) 956-8994 or Lani.Starkey@UHFoundation.org to learn more.






  1. Wow, UH can used this money to cover up the money the threw away on the concert fiasco that the UH head never took responsibility thereof…… and "Help build an advanced culinary training facility in Hawai‘i;" What, crank out cooks ???? Give them a friggin stove and show them how to turn it on/off…..

  2. wow…..we always hear about money being lost or taken away. this is a breath o fresh air. There are still people out there who know what is important.

  3. this is amazing! I can't believe that sum! Good luck to the young people who will benefit from this! I hope they will use it wisely.

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