UH Hilo to honor distinguished alumni

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Date: Friday, February 7, 2003
Contact: Yu Yok Pearring, (808) 974-7501

For Immediate Release

A marine science educational specialist, a youth development specialist and a professional engineer will receive the University of Hawai`i at Hilo's Distinguished Alumni Award during a ceremony at the UH Hilo Campus Center

Dining Room on Saturday, February 22, 2003 beginning at 5:00 p.m. John Coney received his BS in computer science from UH Hilo in 1989. Yet, he is best known for the contributions he has made to a different science with roots that run deep in his family history. His great grandfather, Sheriff John Hawkes Coney, built the first pier extending from Hilo town out into the bay in order to facilitate marine travel and transport in 1863. Today, Coney extends his family connection to the sea through UH Hilo's marine science programs.

Coney, an educational specialist for the Marine Science Department, coordinator of the Marine Option Program (MOP), and manager of the Scanning Electron Microscope Facility, is often the first and most frequent University contact for students in UH Hilo's MOP and Marine Science programs. He directly supervises a staff of eight part-time employees, and assists six full-time and two part-time faculty in field activities.

Coney is responsible for safety planning, coordination and implementation of the lab and field course activities for all courses delivered through the Marine Science Department, and the UH Hilo Marine Science Summer Program, in addition to all activities of the Marine Option Program.

Coney regularly teaches portions of the Quantitative Underwater Ecological Survey Techniques (Quest) course offered at UH Hilo and taught critical portions of Quest Pohnpei, offered in Micronesia in 1996. Each year, he prepares students at the system-wide MOP symposium and for the Senior Thesis symposium at UH Hilo.


He also generously gives back to the University in the form of both time and money. Coney makes monthly donations to the UH Foundation, and last fall donated a full month's vacation pay to a Manoa faculty member who is seriously ill with cancer. Coney also pursues outside donations for the University, resulting in more than a half dozen boats for use in the MOP and Marine Science programs.

His generosity however, is not limited to the University community. As a member of the steering and planning committees, he has been involved with the Pacific Tsunami Museum since its inception. From the development of the museum's computer network, set-up of its Web site, installation and creation of exhibit hardware and software, and installation of the classroom's projection system, Coney has played a crucial role in the facility's success.

A certified American Red Cross CPR and First Aid instructor, Coney has spent countless evenings training hundreds of students and faculty at the University, throughout the community, and various government agencies. He is also a volunteer instructor for Super Science Saturday for the Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children, and has served as an instructor for the Summer Youth Employment Training Program.

Kalani Kahalepau`ole received his BA in anthropology from UH Hilo in 1997, where he was active in student government. He served two terms as president of the UH Hilo Student Association (UHHSA) from 1995-1997. Kahalepau`ole was credited with bringing together a diverse group of students to form a highly effective coalition, and gave students a powerful voice on crucial issues, including a severe budget crisis, a major tuition hike, and diminishing services. His talents were recognized by his colleagues throughout the UH system in 1996 when he became the first neighbor island student to be elected as chair of the UH Student Caucus.

Kahalepau`ole successfully balanced the challenges of holding the UHHSA presidency and caucus chair position simultaneously while maintaining a full course load and raising four children as a single parent. He also chaired the first UH Hilo Ho`olaule`a in 1996, which annually attracts a large crowd to the University's campus for a day full of family fellowship, fun and entertainment.

Kahalepau`ole's community work includes coordination of the "Brudda to Brudda" program, a loose coalition of native Hawaiian males working to develop mentorships with other native Hawaiian males to encourage them to pursue education and positive lifestyles. His knowledge of the Hawaiian culture and how it can help improve the lives of native Hawaiians has earned him numerous speaking invitations from various groups and organizations, which frequently invite him back. He also volunteers the services of his band, Lava, to groups unable to afford to pay for entertainment.

Kahalepau`ole currently works for the Salvation Army's Intervention Services where in 1999 he created Na Ho`ola Pono - Moving Toward a Life of Righteousness. The program, which provides children 12-19 years of age in permanent foster care with the means and education to live independently when they are no longer eligible to live with foster families, has served 150 children since its inception, with 7 currently attending UH Hilo. The success of Na Ho`ola Pono has earned it Department of Education approval to become a school-based program, and currently serves as a statewide model of collaboration by multiple public and private agencies.

Dennis K. W. Lee attended UH Hilo from 1964-1967 when it was known as "Hilo College," and later earned a BS in civil engineering from UH Manoa
in 1970. The current chief of operations for the Department of Water Supply, he previously served as the director of the Department of Public Works for the County of Hawai`i. In his former capacity, he administered the Engineering, Building, Highway Maintenance, Traffic Services and Automotive Fleet Management divisions. He also worked for the U.S. Army's Directorate of Public Works from 1986 - 1990.

Lee's professional awards and honors include federal recognition for his 1986 Pohakuloa Training Area Plan and 1989 Update, the Army's Sustained Superior Performance Award, National Association of Counties award for Solid Waste Management Plan, County of Hawai`i Supervisor of the Year, and "2002 Engineer of the Year" from the Hawai`i Society of Professional Engineers Big Island Chapter.

His commitment to public service dates back to his involvement with the Lehua Jaycees, where he chaired and participated in various community projects involving senior citizens, retarded children, 4th of July events and scholarship pageants.

Lee is a member of several community and professional organizations, including the Hawai`i Society of Professional Engineers, UH Hilo Association of Alumni and Friends, the UH Manoa School of Engineering alumni, the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, the Hawai`i Bowling Club, the Hawai`i and American Water Works Association, and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

An avid sportsman, Lee is a past member and Board Director of the UH Hilo Vulcan Athletic Boosters and spent four years as an instructor at the annual Vulcan Hawai`i Basketball School. He was a charter and founding member of the Andrews Athletic Association, where he coached basketball, little league, t-ball, midget major and pony league teams. Lee has also been active in the Waiakea High School Booster Club, Hilo Junior Bowlers Association, Waiakea Nakoas Pop Warner Football, Hawai`i Government Employees (HGEA) Basketball League, and the Hawaiian Sea Rovers.

The prestigious award recognizes outstanding former students who either earned a degree from, or completed 50 percent of their educational program at UH Hilo. Selection is based on materials submitted by the nominator, with consideration given to the areas of service to UH Hilo, service to the community, or professional accomplishments. The Distinguished Alumni Awards will be held in conjunction with this year's induction ceremonies for the UH Hilo Athletic Hall of Fame. The cost is $25 per person. For more information, please call the UH Hilo Alumni Office at (808) 974-7501 or (808) 974-7643.


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