Dignitaries gather to celebrate completion of College of Pharmacy building

  • Courtesy of TRACEY NIIMI Carolyn Ma, dean of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, right, stands next to the late senator’s son, Ken Inouye, center, during an opening ceremony Wednesday for the school’s new permanent building.

  • Courtesy of TRACEY NIIMI Carolyn Ma, dean of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, addresses the crowd gathered Wednesday for the opening ceremony of the college’s new, permanent building.

  • Courtesy of TRACEY NIIMI University of Hawaii President David Lassner, Representative for Gov. David Ige Dennis "Fresh" Onishi, Former University of Hawaii at Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng, current UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, Dean of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy Carolyn Ma, former UH-Hilo administrator Gerald De Mello, former chief of staff for late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye Pat DeLeon and Inouye's son Ken Inouye pose after a blessing ceremony for the College of Pharmacy's new building Wednesday.
  • Courtesy of University of Hawaii

    Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy students tour their new building

A misty rain came down Wednesday morning as hundreds gathered for the blessing of Kiho‘iho‘i, the new home of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.

Pharmacy students in white coats, county and state leaders and lawmakers, university administrators past and present, Inouye’s family and others assembled under a tent as the ceremony got underway.

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“This is a great day. This is a truly great day,” Inouye’s son, Ken Inouye, told the crowd. “I know this because, No. 1, I see a room full of people. No. 2, I’ve heard other folks talk about what a wonderful day it is, but also because I know this is part of a very extensive vision that my father had for a long time. And to see it come to fruition in itself is a great day.”

When thinking about what his father would say if he were there, Inouye said the “start of this thing becoming reality here” actually began decades ago when the late senator first got into the Senate.

His father was concerned that the state not become Oahu-centric, and worried that neighbor islands would potentially be relegated to a second-class status, Inouye said.

“He did not want that to happen,” Inouye continued. “So he felt that it was important that every island in our state has something to speak for it, some sort of center of excellence, some sort of example for the community in which it resides. And he felt this because, No. 1, he wanted every island to be looked upon with the dignity and respect that it deserved because he always felt that every island had something unique to offer, and the people of all the islands, of all of the state of Hawaii were some of the best people in the world, and he wanted them all to have the opportunities that everyone else, everywhere else in the state would have.”

Inouye said the new pharmacy building is an example of just one aspect of that vision.

“And in this case, this is also an example of his value for education,” he said. “Because he always felt that it’s very important that communities have some sort of center of education that the surrounding community can look towards and say that’s available, that’s an option, that is something that we might want to aspire to … .”

Inouye, who was one of seven people to address the audience Wednesday, also announced that the Daniel K. Inouye Institute will gift a desk that once resided in his father’s office to the College of Pharmacy.

“It is made to last many generations — multiple lifetimes,” he said. “And I feel it’s very fitting that this desk is being gifted to the college because we all hope in the family that this college will last many generations and many lifetimes.”

“I’m honestly speechless in many ways, filled with incredible gratitude and joy that we have a permanent home for our students and our faculty, our program,” said College of Pharmacy Dean Carolyn Ma following about the new facility following the ceremony.

Other university administrators were equally elated to see the building completed.

“For me, this represents a new day for the College of Pharmacy,” said UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin after the ceremony. “State of the art facilities, beautiful space, and so this has been … a long time coming, but a great day of celebration, and it really speaks well to the future.”

UH President David Lassner said he’s watched the project “be nurtured” for more than 15 years.

“Every step of the way there have been challenges, and really the tenacity and passion of the stakeholders on the island and off the island has really come through in the culmination of the academic program, which is remarkable, and now the physical facilities that are really befitting the opportunity that we have to advance the health of all of the people of the island of Hawaii,” he said.

The $31-million, 45,000-square-foot building features lecture rooms, breakout rooms, a student lounge and restrooms on the first level and an administration suite with counsel offices, administrative and faculty offices, labs, a medication therapy management suite, mock pharmacy, resource center, two seminar rooms, consult rooms, laboratories and restrooms on the second floor.

Since its inception more than a decade ago, the college has operated out of temporary sites while it struggled to secure funding for a permanent facility.

Administrative offices were located at the old Hilo Memorial Hospital near Rainbow Falls, students and student affairs were housed in modular buildings near the new building site and research facilities were located near the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo.

The university is in the process of restructuring the program in the wake of declining enrollment and changes in the health care environment throughout Hawaii and the nation.

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Established in 2006, the College of Pharmacy admitted its inaugural class in 2007 and has graduated 744 doctor of pharmacy students and five doctor of philosophy students.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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