Hilo

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Hula: The Merrie Monarch’s Golden Celebration

 

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the 2013 preparations for the 50th annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, Hawaii. The Festival is Hawaii’s most significant cultural event and showcases the art of hula for a global audience. This program highlights the hard work, dedication and spirit of the Festival participants.

 

THE 2017 HIKI NŌ Awards
Part Two

 

This special edition of HIKI NŌ features highlights from the 2017 HIKI NŌ Awards live-streamed announcements of the winners.

 

On Saturday, March 11th, the results of the 2017 HIKI NŌ Awards were announced by PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO Leslie Wilcox and PBS Hawai‘i Board Member Aaron Salā in a four-island, closed-circuit, live-stream awards show originating from the PBS Hawai‘i studio on O‘ahu. HIKI NŌ teachers and students from the nominated schools gathered at their respective locations to watch the announcements: Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College on O‘ahu; McCoy Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Maui; the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort on Kaua‘i; Honua Studios in Kona; and the Waiakea High School library in Hilo. Each time an award was announced, the teacher and students from the winning school came onstage to accept their award from a PBS Hawai‘i Board member: a bronze medal for third place, silver for second place and gold for first. Gold medalists also won a $1,000 gift card to purchase equipment for their school’s media program.

 

This episode picks up where we left off in last week’s show by featuring the medal-winning schools (and their projects) for Best Franchise Piece, Best Factoid, Best Achievement in Cinematography and Editing, Best Overall Story Middle School Division, and Best Overall Story High School Division.

 

This program encores Saturday, April 1 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, April 2 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 

THE 2017 HIKI NŌ Awards
Part One

 

This special edition of HIKI NŌ features highlights from the 2017 HIKI NŌ Awards live-streamed announcements of the winners.

 

On Saturday, March 11th, the results of the 2017 HIKI NŌ Awards were announced by PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO Leslie Wilcox and PBS Hawai‘i Board Member Aaron Salā in a four-island, closed-circuit, live-stream awards show originating from the PBS Hawai‘i studio on O‘ahu. HIKI NŌ teachers and students from the nominated schools gathered at their respective locations to watch the announcements: Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College on O‘ahu; McCoy Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Maui; the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort on Kaua‘i; Honua Studios in Kona; and the Waiakea High School library in Hilo. Each time an award was announced, the teacher and students from the winning school came onstage to accept their award from a PBS Hawai‘i Board member: a bronze medal for third place, silver for second place and gold for first. Gold medalists also won a $1,000 gift card to purchase equipment for their school’s media program.

 

This episode features the medal-winning schools (and their stories) for Best Personal Profile Middle School Division, Best Personal Profile High School Division, Best Writing Middle School Division and Best Writing High School Division.

 

The remainder of the awards will be covered in next week’s show: The 2017 HIKI NŌ AWARDS, Part 2.

 

This program encores Saturday, March 25 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, March 26 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 


HIKI NŌ
Episode #805

 

TOP STORY
Students from Volcano Arts & Sciences School on Hawai‘i Island introduce us to environmental entertainer Dina Kageler. Ms. Kageler, herself a parent, uses music to teach students at Volcano Arts & Sciences about the natural wonders of the Volcano district of the Big Island. She also mounts an annual school musical that celebrates the flora, fauna and natural beauty of the area.

 

ALSO FEATURED:
Students at Saint Francis School in the Manoa district of O‘ahu feature a young entrepreneur who dedicated his innovative ice cream parlor –Lucy’s Lab Creamery – to his late “tiger mom” mother.

 

Students at Waiakea Intermediate School in the Hilo district of Hawai‘i Island show viewers how to beat the heat by creating their very own traditional Japanese uchiwa fan.

 

Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului, Maui, explore how well- suited the soil at Maui’s HC&S sugar plantation will be for diversified agriculture once sugar production shuts down for good.

 

Students at Aliamanu Middle School in the Salt Lake district of O‘ahu show us what it’s like to be home-schooled.

 

And students from Wai‘anae High School in West O‘ahu introduce us to a football coach who acts as a surrogate father to his players.

 

This program encores Saturday, Dec. 17 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 



HIKI NŌ
Episode #804

 

TOP STORY
Students from Kapa‘a Middle School on Kaua‘i tell the story of Dustin Alfiler, Hanalei Fire Department captain, and the important role his family plays in balancing out his life. When he is off duty his family comes first, and he expresses how their commitment supports him in his often precarious and dangerous profession.

 

ALSO FEATURED:
Students at Wai‘anae Intermediate School tell the story of a former media student who finds purpose in his life as a media teacher at the Wai‘anae Boys and Girls Club.

 

Students at Kalani High School in East O‘ahu demonstrate how to make a thaumatrope – a simple device made from paper and string that creates rudimentary forms of animation.

 

Students from Sacred Hearts Academy on O‘ahu tell of youth involvement at the recent World Conservation Congress held at the Hawai’i State Convention Center. Their story includes an interview with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

 

Students from Waiakea High School in Hilo introduce us to the hard-hitting, elbow-jabbing world of women’s roller derby.

 

And students from Moanalua High School on O‘ahu introduce us to a young equestrian who has dedicated her life to the riding and care of horses.

 

This program encores Saturday, Dec. 10 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
State House District 22 / State House District 3

 

In State House District 22 (Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kaka‘ako), Democratic incumbent Rep. Tom Brower is seeking his sixth term and faces a challenge from Republican Kathryn Henski, a retired businesswoman. Brower is the lawmaker who suffered injuries in an assault last year at a Kaka‘ako homeless camp where he was videotaping. In this district, homelessness is a top concern.

 

Some of the prominent issues in State House District 3 (including Hilo, Kea‘au, Kurtistown and Volcano on the Big Island) are the Thirty Meter Telescope controversy and GMO crops. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Richard Onishi has opposition from Green Party candidate Kealoha Pisciotta and Libertarian Gregory Arionoff. Arionoff has declined to appear on INSIGHTS because of his work schedule.

 

Your questions and comments are welcome via phone, email and via Twitter during the Live Broadcast.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:
insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 



LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Crystal Rose

 

Attorney Crystal Rose is a Hilo-born litigator with a reputation for being tough, fearless and strategic. She has taken on complex and contentious civil cases – and the results have helped to reshape the business landscape in Hawaii. “I’ve had the privilege…of being able to work on cases and issues that have been multi-faceted, complex. It really does make me tick,” Rose says.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, March 9 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, March 13 at 4:00 pm.

 

Crystal Rose Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I remember coming to Kamehameha and, you know, it opened my eyes to a bigger city, and all kinds of opportunities that I never knew existed. The classic is, I was so afraid to get on the escalator at Sears because I was sure it was gonna eat my toes.

And you know, that kind of is the local girl coming to the big city. Honolulu was the big city. It really took me a while to get on the escalator.

 

This Hilo native and Kamehameha Schools graduate is now a standout in the big city of Honolulu as a lawyer known for her tenacity and success in some of Hawaii’s most watched civil cases. Crystal Rose, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Her name is Crystal Rose, but flowery is not a word many would use to describe this respected business and commercial litigator. For more than two decades, Rose has taken on complex civil cases, reshaping Hawaii’s banking industry and the island’s largest private landowner. Her peers call Rose fearless, tough, an astute problem-solver. These are traits that Rose didn’t necessarily see in herself when she was growing up in Hilo on Hawaii Island. Rose says her life changed when she switched schools in the seventh grade.

 

Tell me about your parents, and growing up in Hilo.

 

My family, both sides born and raised in Hilo, multiple generations. I was, you know, obviously born in Hilo, went to elementary school at Hilo Union, and then at seventh grade, applied and luckily got accepted and attended Kamehameha Schools at that point in time.

 

And you were a boarder.

 

A boarder.

 

 

In Oahu. From what age?

 

I was eleven when I got there.

 

Eleven, moving away from your family.

 

Oh; for everyone, it’s difficult at that time and that age. And you know, my first year, I think most of us are homesick, and you know, hated it, and I thought my parents sent me to prison.

 

It must have been hard for them, because they’re very family-oriented people.

 

Yes, yes; very hard. But they valued education, and this was an opportunity that they felt would enhance me as their daughter. And so I knew that, and made sure we used it to the best of everyone’s advantages. After your first year, I really enjoyed Kamehameha and the friends I that I had there, and the people I’ve met. They were like my sisters in the dorm after six years. And so, it’s all good.

 

What was life like in Hilo? What part of Hilo?

 

My parents um, lived on a street called Wailuku Drive, which is above Hilo Hospital. And so, my best stories of Hilo was, I went to Hilo Union, and for some reason back then, if you lived more than two miles away from the school, they’d take you home on the sampan bus.   So, there was a group of us that were able to go home every day on the sampan bus.

 

What was that like, riding on—

 

It was very fun.

 

A ferry, essentially, took you home.

 

Exactly; exactly. So, it was quite fun, and I see them now and it warms my heart to see those little buses.

 

Were you quiet, boisterous, athletic, studious? What?

 

Not athletic. Probably in the middle of it. I don’t think I was super-smart, but back then, believe it or not, they had three classes. There was the A Class, the B Class, and the C Class. I was always in the A Class, but I never thought of myself as being the smartest um, kid in the school, if that makes sense. But I think I did well.

 

Did you sit in the back of the class? Did you sit in the front row and raise your hand? What was your personality like?

 

Probably in the middle. You know. You know, just more in the middle, I think. I wasn’t one to sit in the front, and I don’t think I carried the back of the room. Those were for the cool kids.

 

You were not a cool kid?

 

I wasn’t a cool kid.

 

What were you like?

 

What can I say? Uh, I danced hula. Kind of just the normal everyday kid. I enjoyed hanging around after school with the neighborhood kids. We all played. My mom had a bell, and she’d ring us for dinner. And that’s what you did.

 

What did you play? What kind of games?

 

Hide-and-Seek; all kinds of little, you know, kid games.

 

Your dad was a policeman.

 

Yes.

 

Does that mean you had to be a good girl out there, not embarrass your dad?

 

I probably felt that more in high school than I did in elementary school. I didn’t quite focus on it at that point in time. I think in high school, I was a little bit more sensitive to his role. At that point, he had been promoted and he was the district commander of the South Kohala-Waimea area. My family had moved to Waimea, so he had a little bit more prominence in the community, and I think we as a family knew that we had to be a little bit more straight and narrow then. And I think it was good, I was at Kamehameha.

 

Because teenaged.

 

Teenagers didn’t always have to work out.

 

Do you remember what the conversation was about the idea that you would be living on another island, if you just got the chance?

 

Back then, Kamehameha had started in one of its programs called Explorations, so you got to go at the end of your fifth year summer and spend a week there. So, you would then apply in sixth grade. But having come off of Explorations, which was a fabulous experience, and a wonderful program, and I’m glad that Kamehameha still does it ‘til today, I came back like knowing what the school looked like, and met some people that actually became my classmates when I got accepted. So, the conversation, I think, was easier, having had that.

 

What happened at Kamehameha?

 

I was on the honor roll, and I did well certainly, but I was not the top of the class, I was not the valedictorian. But I did do enough to get into college, and all of that. I’m the first in my family to go to college on the mainland, and that was a big deal. My dad is a college graduate, but primarily through UH night school, so he did it, you know, as he was working. And we’re proud of that. But for someone from my family to go to the mainland to college was pretty big of a deal. And back then, we didn’t have the resources where you go to see schools and visit, and all of the decision making pretty much occurred by looking at a brochure and a publication from various schools.

 

So, yet another culture you had to navigate.

 

Yes, yes, yes, yes. But Kamehameha does a good job of doing that. I went to Willamette University in Oregon. There were nine of us from my Kamehameha class that went there. So, you know, there was at least some friends or familiar faces when you were there, but definitely some navigation involved in the transition.

 

At Oregon’s Willamette University, Crystal Rose studied hard, with a double major in psychology and sociology. After graduation, Rose found herself heading to law school at the Hastings College of Law in California.

 

So, I didn’t start with thinking I wanted to go to law school; I ended up there. And I think it was a good decision for me. I spent one study abroad in England, in school in London, and you know, that was another cultural shock experience.   And so, the next was an easy transition, and I went to law school in San Francisco.

 

You know, I notice you got hired by Carlsmith Ball, a leading Honolulu law firm when you were in your second year of law school?

 

Yes. Actually, it’s very typical. Between your second and third year of law school, most large firms—Carlsmith was one, Goodsill is another, Cades does it—they hire second year students between your second year of law school and your third year for the summer. And it’s a good opportunity for the students to get an experience in a law firm, and it’s a good opportunity for the law firms to then kinda handpick the ones they would like to see as permanent attorneys in their offices. So, many of us worked in different firms, and I happened to accept a job with Carlsmith, and then at the end of that summer, they offered me a permanent job. So, when I got out of school, I already had a job, and I knew I was coming home, and that part was easy.

 

That must have been nice.

 

It was very nice; very nice.

 

And then, so you were a young woman working at this illustrious law firm.

 

Yeah.

 

And you … bagged. You left. Tell me about that. After several years.

 

Yeah. I’d been there little over three years, and there was a lot of change at Carlsmith during that period of time. But more importantly, the group I worked with had some conversations about going off on their own, and included me in those conversations. So, there was eight of us that left in ’86. I joined Carlsmith in ’82. I was, you know, twenty-eight years old, and it was a big deal.   It was a big deal.

 

And are you still with the same—well, different partners, but um, same law firm.

 

Same firm. And of the original eight, there’s three of us left. And on January 3rd, we’ll celebrate our thirtieth anniversary. So, I’m very proud of that. ‘Cause, you know, longevity, and we have some staff that came with us, and they’re still with us from the beginning.

 

That’s wonderful, especially since I know that there have been a lot of reductions over the years in legal offices.

 

Correct. So, like I said, it’s been a good ride. You know, I’ve enjoyed it. We have about twenty-something lawyers, and young group, and it’s very dynamic, and that’s good. You know, it’s good for us.

 

Throughout her legal career, Crystal Rose has calmly tackled complicated and contentious cases that made headlines. She represented former Bishop Estate trustee Oswald Stender in a case that helped bring reform to the mismanaged institution now known as Kamehameha Schools. Rose also led the legal strategy for Central Pacific Bank in its hostile takeover of City Bank back in 2005.

 

I’ve had the privilege, and actually the opportunity and I look at it as an incredible privilege, of being able to work on cases and issues that have been multi-faceted, complex. It really does make me tick. I love being in the middle of that, and being able to help strategize a solution that will be the best one, ever. Most of the time, you need to be flexible, ‘cause what you think may work may not, and you have to be able to adjust accordingly. A lot of it has to do with people and responses, and reactions, and where you can take opportunities that are given to you that you didn’t realize were going to happen. And so, yes, I really enjoy that type of work.

 

There’s a lot to what you do. For example, when you were helping Central Pacific Bank take over City Bank, it was an incredibly complex. I mean, there were a lot of numbers.

 

Right.

 

I mean, everything had to make sense for fiduciaries. But I sense it wasn’t just a job for you. I mean, this was a passion, and it was something you believed in.

 

In the restructuring of Central Pacific Bank after we got into trouble, it was very serious. And we got to the point, you know, that some people felt we were, you know, on the verge of being taken over. And it got very close. And I felt very, very strongly that I needed to do everything I could, primarily because you know, nine hundred jobs were at risk. And although shareholder value is important, that was lost at a certain point. But what you cannot lose is the business and the opportunity, and the franchise of the bank, and the people.

 

Why was important for Central Pacific to take over City Bank?

 

I believe the two banks were of similar size, of similar backgrounds, and being in the kind of Asian, Japanese cultural support, and felt that together they would be better and stronger than if they were separate.

 

You didn’t major in business.

 

No; I did not major in business.

 

Didn’t have experience in business.

 

None.

 

So, you emerge as somebody who’s helped to really transform, for example, the banking industry, in the sense of there’s a new bank entity.

 

M-hm.

 

How did that happen? How did you get your business acumen?

 

Obviously, reading, experience, following other businesses. Knowing what you know, and knowing what you don’t know is important, I think. I don’t try to become the financial advisor; I will let somebody explain it to me, and make sure it makes sense, and then I can dive in to the questions I may have. But I think a little bit is just grassroots experience. Been there, done that kinda thing.

 

And then, you waded into the old Bishop Estate. Where you were once a student at the school.

 

Exactly.

 

And then, you’re representing one of the trustees essentially, against the current leadership of the schools.

 

Correct.

 

And the estate.

 

And how that really uh, transpired is, my office at the time was in Alii Place, and I had the privilege of looking out on the capitol and Iolani Palace, and that beautiful view. And one day, I’m looking out of my window, and there is a march occurring by my alumni from Mauna Ala to Kawaiahao. It was the first march of the controversy. And it saddened me, because I thought it was the first time Hawaiians were marching on Hawaiians. And it didn’t seem right, and there’s got to have been a different way to go about doing this. And so, I called Oz; I knew him. His daughter and I went to Willamette together. And so, I asked him if he needed help, and how I could help. And I didn’t expect to be his lawyer, and then he said, Can I retain you?, and I said, Okay, and off we went. And I then realized that that was a situation where the establishment was, you know, pretty entrenched, and you had to do things, unfortunately, a little bit more controversial than I would have liked. But it all worked out in the end.

 

You did arrange a settlement in which your client, Mr. Stender, resigned.

 

Correct.

 

Temporarily.

 

Yes; yes.

 

And permanently, as it turned out.

 

Correct.

 

And how did that help in moving things forward in this very troubled situation?

 

From the very beginning—and Oz was—one of the reasons he’s such a wonderful man and so good about everything was, from the very beginning, when asked by the press, he very strongly felt he would step down, as long as the other four stepped down. We knew that in order to take on the reformation that needed to be done, it had to be done from the inside. He couldn’t quit and then sue them; that would have been not the best strategy. And I think it made a big difference, ‘cause then it wasn’t about him trying to keep his job, versus standing behind the reforms we were trying to put in place.

 

You think that was one of the main pivots in that whole controversy?

 

Yes; yes.

 

Leading to new trustees.

 

Trustees; correct, correct. And if he was in there saying, I’m the good guy and the rest of them are bad, and you need to, you know, keep me and not them, I think he would have had some credibility arguments. People would say, You’ve been there that long, why are you okay, and they’re not? You know, they would just ask. So, he eliminated a lot of questions that would ever have to be asked.

 

Crystal Rose later represented the new slate of Kamehameha Schools trustees in their admission policy giving preference to Native Hawaiian children. She won that case in the Federal courts. More recently, Crystal Rose handled a bitter family dispute over the estate of singer Don Ho, who passed away in 2007.

 

I was hired by the trustees of the Don Ho estate, and it was challenged by some of the beneficiaries. And for unfortunate reasons, we ended up in arbitration. We tried very hard to resolve it outside of that. My goal has always been to be a problem-solver, because you know, fundamentally, people don’t need lawyers unless they come to you because they have a problem they can’t solve. And our job is to solve it; it’s not always to go to court. In fact, sometimes that means you didn’t do your job, or you know, you couldn’t accomplish something in a different way. So, you try all kinds of other avenues before you end up in the court proceedings. Long story short, we ended up in an arbitration, and they upheld the last amendment of the trust. But it was very contentious, and lots of different issues.

 

I suppose when you have access to people in these very personal matters, you learn a lot about how people tick.

 

What I learned from Don Ho’s experience was, he loved everyone, and he told everybody the same thing. So, you know, everyone felt special in his world.

 

And then, when it comes down to the money …

 

They all thought it should be them.   If that makes sense. And he wasn’t dishonest; he just was caring about each person in a different way. So, it’s an example of seeing how everyone’s perspective is accurate, but they never saw it all.

 

When you get to know people in these very emotional circumstances, and I’m talking well beyond the Ho case. But just in general, where you’ve had direct access at a very vulnerable time of their lives, does it help inform you in terms of reading people in the future?

 

Yeah; I think so. I think so. You know, I always want to expect the best in people, and want to give everyone benefits of the doubt. I think that at the end of the day, how you handle yourself can actually—how people can respond. So, you want to make sure that you do so in a respectful way.

 

And they’d better have their documents. ‘Cause that really helps you; right?

 

Yes; yes. Having the documents helps. There’s no question about that.

 

When she is not litigating cases, Crystal Rose is advising some of Hawaii’s major companies. She serves or has served on the corporate boards of Central Pacific Bank, Hawaiian Airlines, Gentry Companies, and Hawaiian Electric Company. In addition, Crystal Rose gives her time to several nonprofit organizations.

 

There’s not one road; each one of them had their own kind of story. I served on the Hawaiian Electric Light Company board, which is the subsidiary of HEI. I just got called one day and asked if I was interested in doing it, and that’s how that one happened. The CPB situation came through doing my legal work at CPB. The merger had occurred, but hadn’t been consummated, and they wanted somebody, I believe, that knew what was going on, and had some inside background. And they asked me if I’d step into being on the board. So, that was likewise a very wonderful privilege, and I’m honored to do that ‘til today. I also serve on the board of Hawaiian Airlines, and when it came out of bankruptcy, I believe they were looking for a few local directors. And they were also in the midst of looking for a lawyer to bring on the case against Mesa, and I met with some board members and the CEO about that, and then they asked me to serve on the board. So, that one has had kind of a different role. And then lastly, I serve on the board of Gentry Homes, and Tom was my first client.

 

Do you sometimes step back and say, I was born in Hilo?

 

Yes.

 

And here I am, hobnobbing and bringing value to major corporations, major institutions, and going up against some very moneyed influential interests.

 

M-hm. I don’t think about it; I don’t think about it in that way. I obviously love my Hilo upbringing and I love my family, that many of them are still there. My husband I have a place in Waimea with some other people that we go to quite often, so my heart can be on that island quite easily. But I don’t kind of look at it as us and them; I kind of feel like everybody does their part to do what they can to make it better place for Hawaii.

 

As she was building her legal career, Crystal Rose married contractor Rick Towill, with strong ties to Lanai, where his great-grandfather was the Lanai ranch manager, George Munro. Together, Rick and Crystal raised two sons who are now grown. When her boys were little, Rose says she was able to handle motherhood and her demanding work schedule with a great deal of help from her family.

Through your major cases and your large caseload, and the many meetings and calls, and unexpected things, you had a family; you had children. How did you make it work? Or did it work?

 

It did work. And you know, many women, or different people will ask me, you know, How did you do it?, quote, unquote. And I will always say there’s not one way to find balance. I don’t think balance is ever found. You strive for it, and you do the best you can. First and foremost, I have a fabulous husband, and he’s always been there for me.

 

What’s his name?

 

His name is Rick Towill. And he’s the string to the balloon. And without him, a lot of what has happened couldn’t have happened. So, I want to first say, I think it starts with your relationship. And then, my kids were actually pretty resilient, and that’s good. I think they’re better adults now from that experience. But I also had a lot of help. My parents from the Big Island to Honolulu, and they were there to help me in all the times I needed. My dad’s name is Charley, and he called himself Charley’s Taxi, ‘cause he picked up the kids all the time, and my mother would have fed them and bathed them, and by the time I came home, you know, the heavy lifting was done, so I had the fun part.

 

Did you all live together?

 

No, no, no. They had a condo in Honolulu, and I lived on the Windward side. But they’d pick ‘em up, take them to their house, and then I’d show up and take ‘em home. Or sometimes they would take them home, ‘cause it was easier. But it’s not easy, and there were very, very trying times. I can’t say I was always in balance, ‘cause I probably wasn’t. And um, you know, during the Kamehameha controversy, my youngest son was six, and he wrote in his school journal that he only got to see his mom in the morning, because I made sure I took them to school, and then he got to watch her on TV, and then he dreamt about her every night. It was very sweet.

 

Oh, it must have broken your heart.

 

Broke my heart; broke my heart. That weekend, I said, Okay, guys, I need to take some time off.   So, it’s hard. But you know, they wouldn’t have it any other way today.

 

And they found their passion in sailing and boats.

 

Yes. And actually, it was during the Kamehameha controversy where I needed childcare during spring break, so I signed them up for sailing lessons at Hawaii or Waikiki Yacht Club. I think it’s Hawaii Yacht Club. And you know, they were nine and six, and their passion for sailing took from there, and so, we are very lucky and fortunate that they found it at an early age.

 

You didn’t have a clue that this would be something special for them?

 

No. My husband and I get seasick in the bathtub.

 

That’s amazing. So, they continued with sailing. So, one of your sons is a …

 

He’s a professional sailor now. And my younger son is a mechanical engineer, working at Navatech, working with their boat designs. So, they’ve both turned out, or luckily have followed their passions, and are doing quite well. So, we’re very, very happy.

 

In her spare time, Rose says she likes to travel, sew, and cook. In her words, you can’t be Portuguese and not like to cook. Crystal Rose’s success has given her the luxury of being picky; she says she focuses on clients who share her values or touch her heart. Mahalo to Crystal Rose of Kahaluu in Windward Oahu for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

And when your parents, the Roses, named you Crystal, did they think they were getting a dainty flower?

 

No, actually, my dad will tell you that the story was, back then there was one TV station, and something that will be dear to your heart, it was KGMB. And they had a show called The Millionaire that they gave a million dollars to someone to then, watch their life thereafter. And that my mother wanted to go to the hospital, and the woman who was given the money that year was called Crystal Sands. And he said, That’s what we should name our daughter. My mother wasn’t quite thrilled, but I think my father prevailed.

 

[END]

HIKI NŌ
Top Story: Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Kauai’s Search and Rescue Canine Team

 

TOP STORY:

 

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauai report on Kauai’s Search and Rescue Canine Team. The story focuses on the training of rescue dogs from the time they are puppies and the qualities in puppies that reveal they might make good rescue dogs: curiosity, bravery, and a love of people. The story also highlights the special bond that forms between handler and rescue dog. The two become so close that they act together as one unit. Rescue dogs become an integral part of their handlers’ lives, and they usually live together. As one handler says, “We actually live in their (the dogs) homes. We just pay the mortgage.”

 

ALSO FEATURED:

 

Students from Maui High School in Kahului report on a gardening program on Maui that provides homeless youth with food and self-esteem.

 

Students from Ilima Intermediate School on Oahu show us how to make a traditional Maori dance implement.

 

Students from Island School on Kauai show us the inner-workings of a bio-mass plant on the Garden Isle.

 

Students at Waiakea High School in Hilo introduce us to the quirky, imaginative and liberating world of cosplay (costume play).

 

And from the HIKI NŌ archives, a story from Kapaa High School on Kauai about an adopt-a-dog-for-a-day program.

 

This program encores Saturday, June 25 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, June 26 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Glenn Furuya

 

Growing up on the island of Hawaii, Glenn Furuya was raised by what he calls the “village” of Hilo. There, he learned the importance of hard work and building relationships, and saw how local values and humility helped build successful businesses. Furuya now channels these local attributes as he teaches leadership skills in Hawaii and around the world.

 

Glenn Furuya Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

We teach through a lot of protocols, rituals. It’s gotta be simple. ‘Cause I’ve come to realize that the simpler you can make it, the closer you are to universal truth. So, I play for simplicity, practical, simple. But this is really important; sticky. A lot of what happens in education isn’t sticky. I mean, nobody can remember. You can go to any one of my clients, and there’s a language out there; bowls, bananas, rocks. And finally, it has to be transformational. Why would I teach something that does not have the potential to transform someone’s life?

 

We’re all products of our upbringing; where we grew up, who raised us, the lessons learned along the way. Glenn Furuya has embraced his roots and his heritage, and applied them not only to his life, but to the lives and careers of leaders around the world. Glenn Furuya, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Glenn Furuya has made it his business to teach others how to be effective leaders. He has presented his lessons to hundreds of businesses in Hawaii, throughout the Pacific Rim, and around the world. His distinctive style of teaching, incorporating local metaphors, nicknames, and playing for simplicity has become Glenn’s trademark. And while many of his lessons on leadership address complex situations, his practical messages are deeply rooted in the ethics of his parents and the community that raised him.

 

Leslie, I grew up in Hilo, Hawaii. Went to public schools there, started my career there. Went to University of Hawaii Hilo for a year or so, before transferring to Manoa. But, Hilo roots.

 

And what was your family like?

 

My father was a salesman for Fred L. Waldron & Company. He sold Kraft cheese, Kraft dressings, and he went around the island selling those products.

 

Did you ever go with him to see how he sealed the deal?

 

Yeah; every once in a while, he’d take us. But it was a very relationship-oriented type of sales. It was not, you know, hard selling. So, they all became friends, and when he’d go to these places, it’s basically taking orders. You know, and some of the stores that he’d go to were the tiny, little stores. Like, I remember one in Waiohinu, Kau. And the owner there, his name was Jack Wong Yuen, Wong Yuen Store. They became very, very, very, very good friends in the process.

 

Oh, that was a big circuit, going all the way there.

 

And like, once a month, he’d get in his car, and he’d go right around the island selling his products.

 

And was he a born sales guy, he loved making the sale?

 

Yeah; my father was more of a relationship type of guy.

 

So, he liked making them happy.

 

Yeah. And, you know, just knew how to build a friendship. And it was through that friendship that the sales came. So, that’s where I kinda learned early on about relationship selling. It’s not necessarily about the hard core type of way of doing things.

 

And what about your mom? Tell me about her.

 

My mom, was a clerk in a store in downtown Hilo. It was called Star Sales & Service. And she worked there for maybe thirty years. And in her fifties, the owner of the store passed away. And so, my mom decides that she wants to start her own store, so she started a little, small store. My mom had a passion for things Japanese. So, she created a store called Panda Imports. It was like a mini, mini Shirokiya.

 

Oh …

 

All Japanese products, food, music, et cetera. And my mom, she didn’t graduate from high school. Very intelligent woman, became very successful. She ran the store successfully for over a decade before she passed it to my brother. Hilo was a very, very interesting place to grow up. You know, very, very humble beginnings. A lot of the beginnings were in sports. Leslie, I lived right next door to the Boys Club of Hilo; just right next door. So, we were constantly at the Boys Club, playing baseball, football, shooting pool, having fun. So, a lot of my time in my youth was there. And I also was pretty active in Boy Scouts. My scoutmaster took us camping every month, so we went to every little nook and cranny corner of the Big Island, from Waipio Valley to the top of Mauna Kea.

 

Really outdoorsy stuff.

 

Yeah; yeah. So, between Boys Club and the Boy Scouts, I had a fun youth.

 

It sounds like a lot of relational stuff, like your dad did.

 

Yeah. I think when you grow up in a small town like that, where everybody knows everyone … I’ve always believed that behavior is a function of social and systemic context. So, I grew up in this context that sort of shaped my behaviors, but if you look at Hilo people, we’re pretty similar. There’s a way about Hilo people. And I was very, very blessed to be brought up in that environment. So, it was a place where I had to behave myself, because if I didn’t, before I got home in the afternoon, somebody was gonna call my parents, and then I would be disciplined [CHUCKLE] for having done whatever I did. So, it was this very interesting place.

 

The village raised you too; right?

 

It was the village that raised us in Hilo.

 

There’s one expression you use, and it’s very traditional, and it goes back generations in your family. And many Japanese families have this as something that guides them.

 

M-hm.

 

What is that?

 

I believe it is this concept called okage sama de; I am who I am because of you. And I really believe in that, that because of my parents and the sacrifices they made the discipline they gave us, the love that they extended, I think that made me who I am. But my grandparents also set a phenomenal example for me of hard work, diligence. You know, okage sama de. My father is a crusty, old Japanese man; he was more of a disciplinarian. He spent a lot of time with his friends, but my father, I am extremely, extremely proud of. He never really expressed much love, but he was a member of the 100th Battalion. And you know, if you think back to the prejudice, the hatred, the discrimination against people of Japanese ancestry because of the Pearl Harbor situation, and yet, these young men at that volunteered to fight for the American army, and all this hatred, and their families are sent to internment camps.

 

And everything was taken from them.

 

Everything taken from them, and yet, they had it in them to go to war, fight for America. And they come back the most highly decorated military unit in entire United States military history. There are two words that I really—another Japanese thing that I learned in my growing. One word is the word gaman; the other word is ganbatte. Those two words. I have little rocks on my desk, and one is gaman, one is ganbatte. Gaman is just, whatever happens, you just gotta be strong; you just gotta suck it up. You just gotta be patient. Ganbatte is, man, whatever you gotta do, you just go for it, man, just full-on move, go, get it done. You know, my father’s group; they exemplified those two qualities. Gaman; all that prejudice, all that hatred, right? Called names, and yet, they sucked it up, they said, That’s okay, we’ll show these people we’re Americans, and we’ll fight for America. Then they pulled out the ganbatte, go for broke and come back the most highly decorated military unit in entire United States military history.

 

And your father was one of the very decorated. What did he win as a medal?

 

Well, he wasn’t highly decorated, but they recently were awarded a couple years back the Congressional Gold Medal. You know, because of that okage sama de, I am who I am—I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but I always had this thing in me that whatever I did, I just wanted my parents and my grandparents to just be proud of what I did, in whatever I endeavored to do. I’m sorry, but that was kind of the driving force in my life.

 

Whether they were alive to see it or not?

 

Yeah, yeah. Right. Just do what you can to make ‘em proud.

 

For Glenn Furuya, the road to doing what you can to make ‘em proud started on his family farm, preparing for a career in agriculture. But Glenn realized that his heart wasn’t in it.

 

Did you have a sense of what you wanted to do when you grew up?

 

You know, it was an interesting journey. I really didn’t have a real clear idea. We had a family farm; my grandparents, who came from Japan as immigrants, were able to buy eighteen acres of farmland, so they had this farm, and every weekend, we’d go there and work on this farm; mac nuts, et cetera. You know, hard work. So, initially, I thought maybe agriculture, go into agriculture, become a horticulturist or something like that. Um, but then …

 

That cured you. [CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Working on the farm.

 

No; what cured me was my first year of college, I took this horticulture class, and then we had to grow plants, and there was vermiculite and whatever things are that you grow plants in. And we had to go care for ‘em on weekends and things, and I just didn’t like that. And I also had an issue; to get a degree in agriculture, I had to have a foreign language. And I just couldn’t pass second year German; it was just too hard. So then, I had to kinda maneuver and figured, okay, what am I gonna do? So, I decided to switch my major to education, and got my degree in ed.

 

You are in education now, but a different kind of education. How long did you stay in the Special Ed education?

 

I was there for eight years. And those were very good eight years. You know, today, I work on leadership, I teach leadership today, is what I do. And those eight years taught me how to lead. That was a very, very interesting experience. I challenge all the people that I work with; try it sometime. You know, just try it for one hour; special ed classroom, sixteen kids. And in those days, it was self-contained; it was kids with mixed disabilities. And you’re in this room all by yourself.

 

I can see it as a lesson in management.

 

Oh, absolutely.

But leadership, you’re saying?

 

Yeah.

Which is different.

 

Yeah. I think there were two elements there. Classroom management was number one. You had to keep these kids in order, clearly defined rules, people following the rules, managing that environment. The leadership came through the requirement to inspire these kids. You know, these were seventh, eighth, ninth graders; they came from disadvantaged communities, most of them single parent homes. They couldn’t read, they couldn’t write, and you know, defeated in the spirit. And the leadership part was to try to encourage these kids, inspire them, to just give them some hope that, you know, life can be good for them, and they can find success.

 

How did you do that?

 

I felt that the greatest gift I could give these kids … and it was not easy to deliver this gift, was to teach them how to work. Because unfortunately for many of them, they’d end up in the kind of labor jobs, custodial job, you know, the simpler clerical jobs. So, I figured if I can help them and teach them how to work, and how to be a good worker, they could sustain themselves, you know, through a career. Those days, there was a lot more flexibility to what teachers could do in the classroom. And I decided that, you know what, if I’m gonna teach them to work, I need to have a business within which they could work. So, my classroom was right next to the teacher parking lot. So, I thought, I know what the business is gonna be; I’m gonna have these kids polish the teachers’ cars, form a business, and charge the teachers for polishing their cars and cleaning and vacuuming; right? It gave me an opportunity, therefore, to have these kids be a participant in an organization. They could learn things like customer service, productivity, quality of work.

 

And there’s detailing and then, there’s broad-brushing.

 

Absolutely. You know, teamwork. But the way I set it up was—and this was part of the management side of the equation. In the mornings, if they studied hard, they followed the rules, they behaved themselves— ‘cause there were a lot of behavioral issues. Okay? Then, they could go out in the afternoon when the classroom got really hot, and work in the car polishing business. And they all wanted to get out of that classroom. They they actually liked polishing cars. [CHUCKLE] So, I’d take the proceeds and I’d reinvest back in the kids. So, we would go camping, we’d take them to Special Olympics, we would give them treats, we’d even do steak fries. Right in the middle of campus, we’d cook steak, and the the whole school could smell the steak. We had so much fun.

 

While Glenn Furuya was working at a special education teacher, he also worked part-time at KTA Super Stores, a locally owned grocery store on Hawaii Island. At the time, KTA was beginning a period of transformation from a small country mom & pop market to a modern day supermarket. Glenn found himself in the middle of that transformation.

 

After eight years, I left. I went to the market, KTA Super Stores, grew up in Hilo, and I went there to work fulltime.

 

What did you do there?

 

I was sort of an assistant to the president. I worked for a very, very enlightened leader there. His name was Tony Taniguchi. And he was just a remarkable, remarkable man. And I was sort of an executive assistant type person. He allowed me to facilitate the meetings of the executive team, I ran advertising, kinda participated in the strategy.

 

And you had a lot of leeway?

 

Yeah; he gave us a lot. Tony was the kind of leader; he would give us an assignment and give us some space to do what we had to do. Very encouraging, but he’d also invest in us. He gave me an assignment to work on developing supervisors, but he told me, You know, go to whatever training you need to go to. He also told me, You gotta join Jaycees, though, and you have to join Jaycees ‘cause they have these courses in the Jaycee movement where they teach you how to lead. So, I did all those things. I have a lot of aloha for Tony; he did so much for me in my career. I started to think about in my head, this duality. In the market, I was learning systems, and how important systems were to transform an organization. Okay? ‘Cause you had to have systems to deliver the results. But in the classroom, I had to really understand how do you engage people who hated you. They didn’t want to be there, they were somewhat disgruntled, and they were defeated. They had defeated spirits. Then it dawned on me; what if you could create an organization that did both, that had systems that could transform it, like we were doing at the market, but you really knew how to take care your people in the process. What if those two forces came together; what would happen?

 

Were there examples of businesses that do that?

 

At that point, I started to research a lot. And one of the first books early on that came out was this book, In Search of Excellence. The first attempt to try to define some of the patterns of the most successful companies. And I began to read these things. I says, Wow, a lot of the patterns I’m seeing show up in this book. So then, I started to read, like read a lot, just research a lot, trying to figure out these patterns, will they work? It ended up in a mantra that I came up with. The mantra was, if you want results, systems make it possible. People make it happen, though. You still need people. Somebody’s gotta do the work. The third element I discovered was, leadership is the key. Leadership is what pulls it all together. Because leadership develops the system, and leadership has to grow the people; right? Without those two, it won’t work. So, that’s where my initial thrust came from, you know, philosophically and theoretically, from that combination of elements.

 

I feel a move coming from KTA Super Stores.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

So, you left the stores at that point to develop your leadership practice?

 

Yeah. I spent two years fulltime. I left teaching; I resigned. Went to the market for about two years, and then—this was thirty-three years ago, I left the market and went to start my own consulting practice. Which I’ve been very, very blessed with wonderful, wonderful clients. Large companies, small companies; these are special people. I owe everything to them.

 

By now, Glenn Furuya had learned lessons from his parents that had been passed down through generations. He’d observed how the residents of Hilo worked and communicated with each other, and

 

saw how a business could grow through his experience with the late Tony Taniguchi. It was time to share what he’d learned. In 1982, Glenn Furuya founded his own consulting company, Leadership Works.

 

The way I teach it is this. There are two types of leaders, Leslie. There’s circular leaders. These are people are who are very collaborative, they’re relationship-oriented, they’re kind, they really engage people. Circular. Island people are generally more circular. Okay. And that’s because in Hawaii, we’re a three-way blend of cultures. We are influenced heavily by Eastern culture, ‘cause in the 1940s, forty percent of the population of Hawaii was Japanese. So, heavy bushido code influence here. And yet, we’re all Americans; that’s the Western influence. We’re all Western-educated folk. But at the same time, the host culture here is Hawaiian. We have a major Polynesian influence. And there’s no place in the world these three forces come together like it does here in Hawaii. So, the Polynesian and the Eastern, Asian, right, give us the circular. We understand circular; that’s why people are so collaborative and warm, and aloha spirit, and ohana. Western culture is much more linear. You know, there’s the goal, here’s the plan, now do it.

 

And if you have to run over somebody to get there, it’s okay.

 

Right.

‘Cause that’s the goal.

 

Right. So, in answer to your question, a lot of times … and there are a lot of island people who are just very linear, too. The biggest mistake you can make in Hawaii is take your linear approach, and slam it on the circular. Right? And then, that equilibrium gets broken. Who the heck does he think he is?

 

We’re talking as if leadership is a position. But it doesn’t have to be.

 

You know what I say? It’s more of an essence. It’s about being fundamentally a good person with solid values. It’s more almost like a way of life, and you gotta live it first. We always emphasize in our organization or at Leadership Works, you gotta be able to lead yourself first. And if you can’t lead yourself, you cannot lead anybody else. We always teach it this way. That life will present you hot water; boiling hot water is like difficulty, problems, trouble, pain. It’s whenever hot water comes your way, you have three choices. If I took a carrot, a raw carrot, and I put it in the hot water, and boiled it for fifteen minutes, it’ll come out soft, mushy, break apart; right? Is that who you are as a leader? You going be a crybaby, a whiner. There are a lot of crybabies out there. Second option; take a raw egg, put it in the hot water, fifteen minutes bubble and boil. Pull it out, hard-boiled; right? Second option in life; you can be an angry, bitter person. You can go yell and scream at people; second option. So, what we try to teach is that you have a third option. What if, in the hot water, you put some tea? Just like your tea there.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And stir it up, and all of a sudden, the hot water became a flavorful drink. We call it flipping. You gotta flip it; right? You go make tea.

 

Are you a carrot, or an egg? Or can you be a cup of tea? A personal tragedy in Glenn Furuya’s life made him look at his own life through the lessons he had shared with so many business people.

 

Let’s talk family. You mentioned your wife is your business partner. Can you tell a little about family stuff with you?

 

Oh, family things. Yeah; I have, actually, two families. The first family was from my first wife, who unfortunately, passed away from cancer. So, I have three adopted kids from Kathy. And my second marriage with Debbie, I have the one child I talked about who works on Wall Street today. So, that’s the family. I have three grandchildren; one here in Honolulu, Kiki, and two in Texas, Elijah and Kaila.

 

Did your first wife die at a young age?

 

Yeah; she was in her fifties. That was quite tragic. She was a teacher for almost thirty years. Very hardworking, good woman, and went to the doctor, found out there was a tumor, ovarian cancer, and passed about a month after that.

 

Wow.

 

So, you know, it’s very interesting, Leslie. Like, as I teach many of these concepts, I kinda can personalize them. Like, remember the hot water?

 

M-hm.

 

That was hot water, man. That was like, painful, and that was hard. But three choices; right? I can be a carrot, I can be an egg, be angry at the world, angry at God, angry at the docs. I could turn into a depressed crybaby, or flip it and go make tea; right? And so, you notice people always criticize clichés. In my opinion, you know when you’re in the moment and you’re struggling, the cliché comes in really helpful. ‘Cause I kept telling myself, Got three choices here. Which choice you’re gonna pick?

 

You sound like you’ve had some really interesting life experiences, too, having three adopted kids. Are they related, or are they separate adoptions?

 

Yeah; separate adoptions. Two from Korea, and one local.

 

Babies, you adopted?

 

Yeah; they were young, they were very young. I think the oldest that came was maybe about nine months. The rest were like, two and three months.

 

So, it really makes you stop and think of what is family, and choosing family.

 

Sure; absolutely. Yeah.

 

And then, of course, when someone passes away …

 

Yeah.

 

You don’t have the right of choice.

 

Yeah, yeah. No; it’s tough. So, you know, there’s still ramifications from Kathy’s death. I mean, people grieve in different ways, and you know, still struggle with some of the fallout from that. You know. So, it’s not been easy. That’s the thing about my job. It’s hard sometimes, because you try to teach people the right way to do things, you know, I’m not perfect; I can’t be this perfect, god-like person.

 

You don’t feel very inspiring when you’ve just lost your life partner.

 

Yeah, yeah. It’s hard, and so, you know, you’re gonna break down, you’re gonna react in maybe sometimes negative ways. And so, sometimes, you feel like a hypocrite; right? And so, that’s the hard part of the job, ‘cause I am not perfect. I don’t do all these things that I teach, I fail many times at home, and with the kids. But you know, you just gotta get back up and keep moving along; yeah?

 

Well, that’s the authentic part you were talking about.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s not easy. Life is not easy at all, you know.

 

And you did remarry.

 

Yes. Got remarried to Debbie, who really, again, has made a big difference. Yeah.

 

While Leadership Works is a business, Glenn Furuya takes his job personally, and takes the most pride in how his simple ideas have changed lives.

 

Back in our office, I have, I think, eight binders; thick, thick binders. And they have page protectors inside. For the thirty-three years I’ve been doing business, I saved every thank-you letter, thank-you email, thank-you card I ever got. And it’s like stacked full, eight binders full. So, if I ever get discouraged and think that our work isn’t making a difference, I go back to this binder and read the poignant stuff in there, man. Like, whoa. A couple days ago, Debbie looked into, I think it was Yelp, to see if anybody ever Yelped us; right? And she found an entry. And it was from a young woman named Carly Tsai, and and she wrote how the course really transformed her life. And Carly is a really cool young woman, came to class, was just totally focused. I wasn’t sure if she was getting it, because she was just so, like, focused; right? But later on, I talked to her mom, and the mom told me how Carly really changed, and other people have told me that it really made a difference. And then, she gave me a personal testimony. So, it’s not me, Leslie; it’s just that after forty years of collecting this wisdom and sharing it, I know the stuff works. It can help people. It can change lives. And so, Debbie and I are dedicated, along with our third part of our triangle, Terry Uehara, and we work very closely together to continue to just share this information. Because we know it can help people.

 

In 2012, Glenn Furuya received the Kalama Award from the Rotary Club of East Honolulu for inspiring excellence in business, and service to the community. When Glenn received the award, he accepted it on behalf of his late mother for teaching him the true meaning of giving and service. Mahalo to Glenn Furuya for sharing his story with us; and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

My grandparents were all Buddhist. And at every funeral, they’d read that White Ashes piece. Though in the morning we may have radiant life, in the evening, we may return to white ashes. So, it’s about the impermanence of life, how life is very transitory. It just so hit me, hearing it four times when you’re at a funeral; you’re all sad, you hear the White Ashes being read. It made me realize, we only got one shot here. We got one shot.

 

[END]

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Robert Iopa

 

On the day Robert Iopa graduated from Waiakea High School with a 1.7 grade point average, his grandmother looked at him with dismay.  “I mean, she literally was looking at me almost with tears in her eyes, saying, ‘So, what are you gonna do now?’” Iopa remembers.  “In response to my grandmother, I said, ‘I’m going to be an architect.’” Since then, architect Robert Iopa has focused on place, history and culture in projects in Singapore, Malaysia, Honolulu and in his hometown of Hilo.

 

Robert Iopa Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

I still think, in my mind, I had a plan. I didn’t know what that plan was, but there was this level of confidence that it was gonna happen. Until that graduation day, because somehow, it just smacked me in the face that, Hey, now it’s real world. Right? You know, you’re gonna have to find ways and do things on your own.

 

He led the restoration design of one of Hawaii’s most iconic hotels, and has been named one of Hawaii’s top young leaders and small business owners. Yet, during his high school years, Rob Iopa’s future did not seem quite so bright. Architect Rob Iopa, originally from Hawaii Island and once an underachiever, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. You may have walked through, or perhaps admired a building designed by architect Rob Iopa, but you probably didn’t know the person behind the design. Rob Iopa’s local projects include the University of Hawaii Hilo College of Pharmacy and College of Hawaiian Language complex, the redevelopment of Kuhio Beach Park in Waikiki, and the restoration of the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Under Rob Iopa’s leadership, his Honolulu-based startup firm, WCIT Architecture, has grown into one of the largest architectural firms in Hawaii. Pacific Business News named Rob one of the most influential leaders of Hawaii for the next twenty-five years, and the Small Business Association named him the 2008 Businessperson of the Year for Honolulu. From an early age, Rob’s parents were focused on his education. His mother Glenda had to put her college plans on hold when she gave birth to him at age seventeen.

 

Born and raised in Hilo in the late 60s, and kind of grew up with my mom and dad in a little area of Hilo called Wainaku. I remember crossing the street to go to my preschool, literally. Ended up going to a small private school called Henry Opukahaia. I skipped third grade, at the time I didn’t know what that meant. But it did put me in an age group a year older than me.

 

That’s a lot when you’re that young.

 

It was; it was. It was a different kind of perspective. But we were multi-grade in that small school, so I didn’t really recognize it until I went to public school in seventh grade, Waiakea Intermediate. After that, I got accepted to Kamehameha in ninth grade, and at the time, and still today, right, that was kind of the golden ticket. [CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah; you must have been overjoyed. Were you overjoyed? It was hard to get picked.

 

I was very happy that I was selected to go to Kamehameha School on Oahu.

 

And with the idea you were going to board?

 

So, it was interesting. It was a time when my mother had graduated from University of Hawaii at Hilo with a political science degree, and had applied to Manoa Richardson School of Law, and was accepted. My mother and father had divorced by that time, and Mom brought my sister, who was four, and me, who was nearing thirteen, to Oahu. So, I lived with my mom and she raised both of us, worked, and went to law school. It was a transition period for me, kind of moving and other things kinda of going on, so it was a little bit of a difficult time. It wasn’t the right place for me, at the right time.

 

Is that right? I think of thirteen as a time of life that I would prefer not to remember myself.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

It is; there’s a lot going on.

 

Yeah. I think socially, I was very kind of attuned to what was going on in Hilo at the time, so it was a little bit of a displacement from there. And then, even my friends that I moved up with, there was a whole crew of Hilo boys that came up. Most of them were boarding; right? So, even my kind of support crew was boarding, and I was day student, and there was just various—I was used to going to school in shorts and slippers. But there was regulations on how one should dress.

 

Did you not like the authority?

 

I think I rebelled against it, a little bit. I don’t know exactly why at the time, but I think I pushed back a bit. You know, JROTC was new to me at the time, and you know, I wasn’t very good at ironing at that point in my uh, my life. It was a time of transition that I didn’t quite understand. And as I like to put it, you know, they told me at the end of the ninth grade year that the Princess’ vision would be better served if I was back on the Big Island.

 

Whoa! [CHUCKLE] That was a nice way to say that.

 

Yeah. You know, I don’t think they put it in that fashion, but that’s how I like to—

 

Yeah; that’s a very gracious way to put it.

 

Yeah.

 

But, what was the reason the school gave you?

 

I think it was a series of events. You know, it was this kind of rebellion over time.

 

Were you acting out? Acting up, acting out?

 

Yeah; but simple kinds of things, right? I mean, it wasn’t anything so dramatic that they said, Okay, this is it. But you know, I mean, there were things like slipper passes, right, that if for some reason you had a foot injury, you were able to wear slippers. And you know, I’d fake my slipper pass, or you know. I mean, those kind of things.

 

Did they just think you just weren’t ready yet?

 

I think it probably worked out that way. But I mean, my actions were showing that I wasn’t happy at that place. And you know, it was intended that there was a door for me to come back, if so choosed, from both sides after some time away. But, you know, I think I wanted to be in Hilo at that time.

 

Did you head back to your dad, then?

 

I did. I did. So, I went back to Hilo and lived with Dad right away. Started up at summer school, because I had work to make up for work that was uh, not completed.

 

And went to Waiakea High School?

 

Waiakea High School.

 

After his dismissal from Kamehameha Schools Kapalama at the end of his freshman year, Rob Iopa reintegrated into public school, sports, and his social circles at Waiakea High School in Hilo. However, the move did not do much to change his indifferent attitude about school rules.

 

I mean, I got kicked off of our high school team on our last game. You know, I was the offensive captain.

 

How did you manage to get kicked off that game?

 

[SIGH] Tardiness, missing school. You know, I mean, those types of things. It was that kind of period of time. My senior year GPA was 1.7. I didn’t have much aspiration to kind of finish high school in the traditional sense.

 

Did teachers tell you, You’re, you know, a smart boy, but you don’t try hard enough?

 

Yeah.

 

Was that you would get?

 

I mean, that’s the kind of storybook kind of version of how some of these things played out. It did play out that for me, definitely towards the end of my high school career too, right? If you only applied yourself. Right? I mean those types of things. And to a certain extent—I mean, this may sound a little cocky, but I thought I could. You know, I thought I could turn it on or off.

 

Rob Iopa was a classic example of a high school underachiever, a student who had the potential to do well if he only applied himself. During graduation day, a heart-to-heart talk with his grandmother began to set Rob on a new path.

 

It was my graduation day, and my grandmother kind of looked at me after this kind of turmoil over the past four years of up and down cycles. She’s been an important part of my life as well, I mean, all the way through. I mean, she literally was looking at me almost with tears in her eyes saying, So, what are you gonna do now? I don’t know why. I probably had thought about it. I actually physically failed high school drafting. I got an F in high school drafting. But I loved it. I loved the precision of drawing, you know. I didn’t like being in class at the time; it was kinda strange. But I loved the precision of how things met. And mathematics has always been kind of something that I was interested in. I loved geometry, I loved trigonometry, I loved the kind of shapes and patterns, and the complexity of figuring something out. In response to my grandmother, I said, I’m gonna be an architect. I mean, it was probably the first time I ever blurted it. And I remember to this day where I was, and what I said, and how I said it.

 

Had you met an architect before?

 

Yeah. So, we had an architect in our family circle. He was my Uncle Jay’s friend. He’s still a practicing architect in Hilo. And I mean, I’ve told him this many times, that he was my inspiration. He was just cool, you know. I mean, he had the right cars, he had this long, flowing hair, he always dressed nice. It looked like something that was interesting, and it seemed creative. And I was like, Wow, I want to be an architect. I didn’t know how to get there.

 

Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi, Rob Iopa’s close friend and classmate in high school, shared a similar high school experience, and spoke about it in a 2014 commencement address, which went viral on You Tube.

 

Because I had a 1.8 GPA out of high school, when I told guys I was going college, they told me, Easy, Hawaiian, maybe you better throttle back some of that ambition and dreams. I’m here for tell you guys, No listen to them. Okay? ‘Cause next thing you know, anything is possible.

 

So, I moved to California and went to junior college, and that was kind of, you know, a big transition step for me to kind of go on a different path.

 

You chose your junior college?

 

I did. You know, I mean, we joke. One of my best friends is Mayor Kenoi on the Big Island, so we were both graduates, classmates, best friends through high school. We were looking at colleges that we could kind of go to, and we were looking to proximity to the ocean, and kind of ratios of men to women as our criteria, you know, at the time. So, one of the areas was in kinda Central California, and it just so happened that I have an aunt that lives in Salinas. So I chose Monterey Peninsula College.

 

And was the thought of being an architect still in the back of your head?

 

It was the singular focus at that point.

 

Oh, really?

 

Yeah. I mean, almost in a way that nothing else mattered, and there was no doubt aside from that. I did very well in junior college. You know, I mean, I definitely applied myself.

 

Rob Iopa’s hard work at junior college paid off, and he was accepted into the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He continued his pursuit of a career in architecture; however, when he first got there, the program was not quite what he expected.

 

I think it was a little bit of a culture shock, kind of going to a school that was purposely focused on architecture at the time. I was still doing mechanical drafting, really. So, I was still trying to connect lines and to draw a perfect circle, and these types of, you know, manual drafting exercises that I thought was architecture, or the precursor to architecture. And then, I got to school, and they started to talk about the world of design. And I never really understood that, you know. And they were talking about composition, and proportion, and these terms that I never have heard before. I mean, I literally thought that I was drawing blueprints; that’s what architects did. Right? I drew a floor plan for you, so you could build a home. I was a little, maybe even ashamed, if you will, that I wasn’t as versed in design as what my peers were. So, I’d work in our studio environments, and then I would go home and work extra. You know. Because I knew that I probably needed that little extra time to kinda come up with a solution that would be on par or better than others. So I mean, it’s still in my work stream today that, you know, maybe I gotta work a little bit harder than everybody else, you know, to get a little bit further ahead.

 

After seven years of post-high school education in California, with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cal Poly, Rob Iopa was ready to return to Hawaii to begin his career.

 

I had really envisioned going back to Hilo. That was my focus. I had envisioned going back to Hilo, and the years prior I had interned twice in Hilo, and then once on Oahu. The second time in Hilo, I found a firm that I really enjoyed working with. There was a man named Marty Stewart, and another architect. He’s still an architect in Hilo now, Neil Erickson. Both of them had hired me for the summer and gave me some pretty extensive responsibilities through that summer. I was like, Wow, these guys, they’re not just having me draw meaningless kind of details; they’re saying, Hey, bring your creative thought. I really liked it. I liked the small town kind of focus and thought that’s what I wanted to do. So, they hired me. I moved back home, I moved into a place, shipped everything there. I was ready to go, and a week before I was supposed to start work, they called me and said, Well, we just had three big jobs fall through, we can’t give you the job. Which at the time was kinda devastating. The year before, I had interned at Wimberly, Allison, Tong and Goo, WATG now. Really, one of the world’s leaders in hospitality design, if not the world’s leaders in hospitality design. Great story, local company, started here, to become this international power. And I really enjoyed it, actually, and they really liked me. But I still thought Hilo was the thing. So, when I found out that Hilo gig fell through, I called at the time, Charley Wallace, who was kind of the director of hiring, and he says, Come on over. You know, we got a job for you next week.

 

Rob Iopa’s new job at WATG would lead him to work on high profile development projects mainly in Southeast Asia. While designing for cultures in foreign lands, Iopa began to develop a desire to design projects for his home culture in Hawaii.

 

I still credit much of kind of what we do today to that opportunity. The opportunity that the company provided, the opportunity that my bosses at the time provided, the kind of freedom they let us in exploration. Right? I was twenty-five years old, out there with an expense account, designing some pretty high profile jobs, you know. I mean, I was like, Shucks, do they really want me to do this?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know? But we were able to accomplish some really good things. I was in Kuala Lumpur, the tallest buildings in the world, the Petronas Towers were being built. WATG had a project right next door; literally, right next door for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, that we would keep tabs on, but wasn’t our direct project. We were restoring the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, the E & O Hotel in Penang, Malaysia, which is equivalent to their Royal Hawaiian or Moana. You know, I mean, it’s a—

 

It’s an icon.

 

An icon of the country.

 

What brought you back home?

 

So, I believe it was probably about ’98, there was an Asian recession. So I mean, essentially, all projects that we were working on went into kind of deep hibernation. So, we were going out on six-week stints for the better part of two years. We’d go out six weeks, come back two, go out six weeks. And then, it just stopped. So, we came back home, and I was ready to come back home. I mean, it had gotten tiring. We were designing for other people’s cultures, and I started to then have this yearning, right, for designing for our own culture. It just so happened that I came back, and I got put on two particular projects at the time that I think were instrumental in kinda defining my next stage. One was the Kuhio Beach Park redevelopment, which was a City and County project, that essentially started at the end of the Moana and went to Kapahulu Avenue. This was in the late 90s, early 2000s. Included new beach substations, surfboard racks, closed down a lane of Kalakaua, brought in all those grassy lawns and meandering walk. Really transformed Waikiki in many ways under the Harris administration. So, I was the point designer and project manager on that. Got my opportunity to kinda engage in community.

 

What was the other project, when you came back, you did?

 

Aloha Tower Marketplace. So, Aloha Tower Marketplace had already been built and developed in the early 80s, probably. But a new group had come in, Trinity, and Scott McCormick was the person at the time, who’s still my client now at Turtle Bay. But they had looked at trying to reposition the Marketplace at the time. We were doing all of these master planning efforts, and you know, I mean, with various big interest by the community, particularly as it related to Irwin Park. So, a lot of community action, interaction at that point. I had been dealing with the City as part of the Kuhio Beach Park project, and I got to deal with the State, the Aloha Tower Development Corporation has a board of appointed officials, and having to go through that process. And just all of that started to spur my next set of desires, I guess, and that’s when I really started to focus in on doing work only in Hawaii.

 

After leaving the architecture company WATG to focus on more Hawaii-based projects and spending a year designing for Architects Hawaii, another large Hawaii firm, Rob Iopa decided to step out on his own and cofound a new firm called WCIT Architecture.

 

And it was really because of a calling and opportunity to join up with two of my former bosses at WATG who left to start their own firm and we joined to start the firm we have now.

 

Was that in 2000?

 

In 2000.

 

And I read that you went from start up to one of the largest architecture firms in Hawaii, in maybe eight years.

 

Yeah. Maybe even shorter. I mean, we never reached the kind of plateau of the largest firms in town, like Architects Hawaii and Group 70. But I mean, we were definitely in the top three or four.

 

How did that happen?

 

Timing, luck, friends. 2000 was the kind of beginning of this incredible economic boom throughout the world, but definitely here in Hawaii.

 

Royal Hawaiian Hotel; how’d you feel when you got that job?

 

It was quite remarkable, you know. I mean, there’s periods in time and projects that you go back and you kinda just relive. But in my mind, that was The Project that said, WCIT has arrived. We had been doing significant projects on the outer island, but you know, as a firm, as iconic as the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was, it was really incredible. We still tell the story, and others tell it for us that were on the selection committee. But we came in, and for the first half an hour of our hour presentation, all we talked about was the history of place, how important that place was. We told the story, the legend of Kaauhelemoa and you know, Kakuiewa, and the scratching and the planting of the grove. We went through all this kind of history before we came up with our solution. And you know, I mean, it was the first time that our way of thinking and our methodology had gelled in such a way that people got it. It was the restoration of the royal grounds of Helemoa; that’s what we called it. I mean, we said that the place had historic significance. Royal Hawaiian Center right in front had already started to tell the story of Helemoa and the importance of this place, but we thought that the Royal was the kinda culminating component of that, and that we had to restore the stature of this place. Not just because it’s the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and you know, a world iconic, but because the place was so significant. That’s where Kamehameha landed, right, to unite the Hawaiian Islands. The first Kingdom of Hawaii was established right on those grounds. There’s just tremendous amount of history.

 

Rob Iopa and his firm WCIT Architecture broadened their attention to a new type of design project: children’s books. Their first book, Aama Nui, was published in both English and Hawaiian, in the hopes of celebrating Hawaiian culture while teaching keiki about creativity and architecture. At the time of this conversation in 2014, Rob had just launched the book.

 

In all the things that we are doing right now, and all the projects—and my clients are watching. Excuse me. But that one has my most time and attention right now. You now, I mean, we just spent a week at Merrie Monarch launching the book, which had gotten great kind of reception. We found out two weeks ago that we were awarded a Historic Hawaii Preservation Award for the book, and last week we were awarded two Pookela Awards for it. I mean, we aren’t book writers, but it was just this way of expressing how history and culture and place can exhibit itself as inspiration for architectural design. So, it’s a simple story I essentially wrote for my children. They are in the book. They’re the two turtles, Makalii and Makana. But it was inspired by the idea that there was a home that we were looking to build in Keaukaha on these ponds, and the fact that the home needed to be raised above ground for tsunami inundation. I’ve always hated the idea of just, you know, building on stilts. That just looks strange. And I said, you know, When we design this, we’ve gotta find a way that this building can actually touch the ground, almost like legs. Then we started to play with the story of legs, and we drew the first one, and it just so happened to have eight legs. And we said, It’s a crab, it’s an aama crab. The aama crabs are all over in this area on the rocks in Keaukaha. So, the story is called The Aama Nui. Aama Nui is a one-eyed crab that protects these ponds. He has one eye, because he’s been protecting, he’s been beefing on the ponds and he’s lost an eye in the process. But it’s also the inspiration of the design of the home, so the home is also Aama Nui. So, the story tells a simple moolelo that talks about the crab, but also the inspiration of design, and then you see the design of the home. So, we call it an architectural book series for children.

 

Wow. So, does that mean that’s another career you’re gonna be running on a parallel course?

 

Yeah; we are, actually. I mean, so the second book is in process right now. It’s Hale Olelo; it’s of the creation of the College of Hawaiian Language at UH Hilo. And we have a dozen of these stories already baked, and some of them have built projects, you know. So, Royal Hawaiian, the story I just told, this perfect setting, right, to create another one of these books. What we’re really trying to focus in on is that there is reasons and ways to express yourself’s creativity with the history and stories of our place.

 

In 2013, work was completed on the University of Hawaii at Hilo Kahakaula O Keelikolani College of Hawaiian Language building. The building sits across the street from Waiakea High School, where Rob Iopa spend his tumultuous teenage years. When Hilo-born Iopa spoke at an even for the new building, he said it was one of his happiest moments to design the building, and that he finally became a Hilo architect. Mahalo to Rob Iopa for sharing his story with us, and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I’d like to say that our best designs do get built, because that’s what makes them the best; right?

 

Because they’re do-able.

 

They’re do-able. Right? I mean, we can all live in this kind of fantasy world and design what-ifs. I mean, I’ve seen many wonderful proposals that never meet fruition. But the best designs are the ones that get built.

 

[END]

 

 

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