Dr. Rockne Freitas, currently vice president for student affairs and university and community relations for the University of Hawai‘i System, has been named chancellor of the University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu (UHWO) for a three-year term following the retirement of UH West O‘ahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni. The University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents confirmed Freitas’ appointment during a public meeting held at UH Hilo on Feb. 21. Freitas is the first native Hawaiian to lead a baccalaureate campus.
UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said, “Rockne Freitas has been instrumental in developing the UH System’s efforts to become the model indigenous-serving university in the nation, ‘Hawaii Papa O Ke Au’. The UH West O‘ahu campus will serve some vital populations in the area, including native Hawaiians, Filipinos, and other important groups. His background, talents and life experiences make him an ideal leader for this important campus in the growing area of West O‘ahu and will further the fulfillment of UH’s mission to serve the educational needs of all of Hawaii’s people.”
Board of Regents Chair Eric Martinson said, “We look forward to the impact UH West O‘ahu will have under Rockne Freitas’ demonstrated leadership, with his deep community ties. Also, on behalf of the Board of Regents, I wish Gene Awakuni well in his new endeavors.”
“It’s hard to imagine that seven years have passed since I first came to UH West O‘ahu. There is a great sense of accomplishment shared by all of us here at UH West Oahu in getting this new campus built and opened. It has been an honor and a pleasure serving as the chancellor and seeing this university grow with new faculty and freshman students,” said UH West O‘ahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni. “Rockne brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding both at the campus and system level, and I am confident the University will continue to grow and thrive under his leadership.”
Freitas will work alongside Awakuni from March through April on academic affairs prior to Chancellor Awakuni’s retirement. He will become chief executive of the new UH West O‘ahu campus in Kapolei beginning May 1. Chancellor Awakuni was awarded the title of chancellor emeritus and has been appointed senior adviser to the president from May 1 until his retirement in early July.
Freitas has served as the vice president for student affairs and university and community relations for the University of Hawai‘i System since 2010. Prior to that he was named chancellor of Hawai‘i Community College in August 2004, serving as the chief executive of the main campus in Hilo and its University of Hawai‘i Center in West Hawai‘i. He also served as vice president and executive director of the Ke Ali‘i Pauahi Foundation and has held leadership positions at Kamehameha Schools and GRG Enterprises. He previously served as vice president for university relations for the UH system and associate athletic director for UH Mānoa. Freitas played in the NFL for 11 years and was a three-time All-Pro. He has been inducted into the Hawai‘i Sports Hall of Fame and the Oregon State University Sports Hall of Fame. He is a member of the All-Time All Pacific Northwest Football Team. Freitas also served as a trus tee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Freitas holds doctoral and master’s degrees in education from UH Mānoa and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Oregon State University. His doctoral research focused on developmental systems and guidelines for drug prevention, education, monitoring and counseling for intercollegiate athletics.
Freitas said, “I was a C student in high school and athletics was a pathway to higher education achievement. To have reached this point in my educational career is a humbling reminder to me and hopefully for young children out there who hunger to better themselves –If I can do it, you can too. I am honored, privileged, and filled with strength to accept this appointment and play a role in helping UH West O‘ahu realize its potential.”
UH West O‘ahu became a four-year, regional comprehensive university when it served its first class of freshmen in fall 2007. The university offers quality education, small classes and personalized attention at convenient locations. UH West O‘ahu serves approximately 2,000 students at its brand new, state-of-the-art campus that opened in the City of Kapolei in 2012. For more information, visit uhwo.hawaii.edu, twitter.com/uhwestoahu, facebook.com/uhwestoahu or call (808) 689-2800 or toll-free (866) 299-8656.