Celebrating 75 years

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What began in 1941 as a small vocational school serving 183 students has ballooned into Hawaii Community College, with more than 3,000 students enrolled in 26 different programs.


What began in 1941 as a small vocational school serving 183 students has ballooned into Hawaii Community College, with more than 3,000 students enrolled in 26 different programs.

This academic year, the institution is recognizing its 75th year providing educational opportunities to Hawaii Island residents and will be including special additions to a number of annual events in honor of the occasion.

When celebrating the 75th anniversary of a school which has had such a big impact on East Hawaii, just one day won’t cut it, said Chancellor Noreen Yamane.

“Hawaii Community College is proud to have been a part of the Hawaii Island community for the past 75 years,” said Yamane.

“During this time the college has continually evolved to meet the needs of Hawaii Island residents and employers.

“What has remained constant during these 75 years is our commitment to providing accessible, high-quality education that gives Hawaii Island residents the opportunity to improve their lives and pursue their dreams.”

Established by the Territorial Legislature, the college, then known as Hawaii Vocational School, began with five trade programs: Automotive mechanics, carpentry, apparel trades, machine shop, and sheet metal and welding. The courses were taught at the campuses of the Hilo Union, Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High schools.

Construction of the present campus at Manono and Kawili streets began in 1952 and was completed in 1956. In recognition of the school’s broadening its technical training focus, the college was renamed Hawaii Technical School.

In 1969, the state Legislature transferred administration of the school from the Department of Education to the University of Hawaii and renamed the facility the Hawaii Community College on May 1, 1970.

The college began offering programs in West Hawaii in 1982, and this fall a new branch, Palamanui, opened in Kona.

“We expanded our offerings to service the entire island as the needs grew,” Yamane said.

One offering that has been a particularly successful course is the school’s culinary arts program. The program has been able to teach its students the skills they need for the locations in which they’ll be working, she said.

“If you compare the east and west, they’re very very different different. So, our students who are on the West Hawaii campus would actually gain skills more toward servicing the resort areas, whereas on the east side, they learn production skills. They know how to produce and make different kinds of meals very very quickly, because on east side it’s catering more toward the local economy. We have more of those fast food and restaurants rather than the high end type of things,” Yamane said. “So, we can impact both sides of the industry.”

Another highly successful program has been the school’s Model Home Project, which allows students in various courses of study to participate in the building of a home for Native Hawaiian families on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands property. So far, students have built 49 in total, she said.

“It’s a cool project,” she said.

“The architecture and engineering students design the home. … Electricity students get to wire the house. Mechanic students grade the land. The welding program and (agriculture students) get involved. … It impacts a number of industries.”

Shirley Dellinger, the chief operating officer at Hospice of Hilo, credits Hawaii Community College’s accounting program with jumpstarting her career.

“The skills and knowledge gained at HawCC catapulted (me) to a successful career as well as continued education at both UH Hilo (double majoring in Accounting and Business) and UH Manoa for a Masters in Human Resource receiving honors in all degrees while working full-time,” she wrote in an email. “HawCC education provided a hands-on approach in accounting methods that served to increase (my) success in higher degrees.”

The first major event to recognize the anniversary will be on Nov. 7, with the Hawaii Community College Alumni &Friends Scholarship Fundraiser and 75th Anniversary Celebration.

To be held in the University of Hawaii at Hilo Sodexo Dining Room from 6-9 p.m., the event will include a silent auction, door prizes and entertainment, including a vintage fashion show by Hana Hou.

Proceeds from the event will help the alumni association establish an endowment that will provide student scholarships.


For online ticket sales, visit www.uhfoundation.org/HawaiiCC75. You can also contact Anne Chung at 934-2547 or archung@hawaii.edu.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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