‘I can still climb the roof’: Hawaii CC professor, construction mentor honored for distinguished service

Courtesy photo Hawaii Community College professor Gene Harada was surrounded by current and former students after being presented with the Willard Wilson Award.

Hawaii Community College professor Gene Harada recently received the University of Hawaii Willard Wilson Award for Distinguished Service.

Harada is a Hawaii CC alumnus who has taught at the school for almost 27 years. He is described as a true mentor to his students, training them to “be professional, to show up on time and to do things right the first time.”

Harada is the longtime coordinator of the popular Model Home Project on the Big Island, which recently completed its 50th project. The model home partnership with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands provides affordable homes for local families and showcases the skills of Hawaii CC students.

About two dozen of Harada’s current and former students and some family members attended the award presentation during a Board of Regents meeting at UH-Hilo. Harada called the moment “unbelievable,” and said he felt honored.

He has completed hundreds of projects through the years with his carpentry students. He dedicates his summer vacations doing repair and renovation work at Hawaii CC and UH-Hilo, saving thousands of dollars in maintenance costs for the campuses and giving students valuable hands-on experience.

His affection for his students is evident.

“They are my inspiration, let’s put it that way,” Harada said. “As long as they want to learn, I will be willing to teach them. If I cannot climb on the roof, maybe it is time to retire. I can still climb the roof.”

“The professional manner in which his students conduct themselves and their skillful workmanship is a testament to Gene’s tireless efforts to raise the bar on quality standards and instill in his students a sound work ethic,” Harada’s colleagues said. “He is truly someone that practices ‘old school’ work ethic, integrity and honesty.”

The Willard Wilson Award, named in honor of a longtime former UH administrator and secretary to the Board of Regents, recognizes exemplary service to UH by an employee.