Arakaki Family Starts UH Hilo Scholarship

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By Margot Schrire of the UH Foundation


HILO — Longtime Hawai‘i County Councilman Jimmy Arakaki and his wife Grace have made a donation of $15,000 to establish an endowed scholarship to benefit students at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.  As a result of a limited-time matching gift program made possible by a donation from an anonymous donor, UH Hilo is matching the Arakaki’s donation dollar-for-dollar, effectively doubling its impact.

Beginning in the fall of 2010, the James and Grace Arakaki Endowed Excellence Scholarship will be awarded annually to a local student who has been honorably discharged from active U.S. military service, or who is the son or daughter of a veteran.  The scholarship benefits students enrolled in UH Hilo’s College of Business and Economics, with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above.

“I want to give a veteran a chance like I had.  And I want to support someone who can give back to the community through a business career,” commented Jimmy Arakaki.

The Arakaki’s manage Dodo Mortuary Life Plan, Inc., a business which they opened in Hilo in 1978.  Jimmy Arakaki served on the Hawai‘i County Council for a record 16 years (1990 to 2006), until a new term limits law forced his retirement.  For eight of those 16 years he chaired the Council, presiding over a period of significant growth and development for Hawai‘i County.

Jimmy Arakaki grew up in the plantation town of Ola‘a, raised lovingly by his Okinawan grandparents.  After graduation from Hilo High School in 1958, he enlisted in the U.S. Army (4th All Hawai‘i Company) and served for three years before returning to Hawai‘i in 1961 to enroll in UH Hilo’s predecessor, Hilo College, and ultimately earn a Bachelor of Business Administration from UH Mānoa in 1965.   He credits his military service and his student days at Hilo College as formative experiences in preparing him for his dual career in business and government service.

Grace Arakaki grew up in Palolo Valley, the daughter of first generation Japanese immigrants; she was the first in her family of 13 children to graduate from college, earning a degree from UH Mānoa in Asian Studies.

Private scholarships like the James and Grace Arakaki Endowed Excellence Scholarship make a critical difference to needy students at UH Hilo, where over 65% of students depend upon some form of financial assistance, the highest percentage of any of the ten UH campuses.


UH Hilo is pleased to offer a first-ever series of matching gift opportunities that will greatly increase student scholarship support and help remove barriers to student access and success during these challenging times. For a limited time only, several scholarship matching packages are available, thanks to a very generous $1 million anonymous gift which enables donors to double the value of new scholarship contributions.

For more information please contact the UH Hilo Office of Development at (808) 933-1945 or email Margaret Shiba at

The University of Hawai‘i Hilo is a comprehensive university with five degree-granting colleges, six master’s programs and two doctoral programs. UH Hilo strives to integrate culture and science, offer hands-on learning opportunities to its students and use the Island of Hawai‘i as a natural learning laboratory. Enrollment has doubled since 1980 to nearly 4,000 students coming from all fifty states and more than 40 countries. Please visit

The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. Our mission is to unite our donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations to benefit the people of Hawai‘i and beyond. We do this by raising private philanthropic support, managing private investments and nurturing donor and alumni relationships.  Please visit