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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 13, 2001

Dobelle vows to deliver results

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

For graduating senior Todd Ferreira, University of Hawai'i President Evan Dobelle seemed like the shot in the arm his alma mater needs.

Evan Dobelle wants to create an environment where UH is among the first choices of high school seniors.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"People here in general look down on the university, and I think they are selling it short," said Ferreira, a 23-year-old from Hilo who received his bachelor of science degree in molecular biology. "It really upsets me that high school graduates think, 'I am going to apply to these Mainland schools and my fallback will be Hawai'i.' We have an excellent university."

Dobelle told Ferreira and nearly 600 other summer graduates at Stan Sheriff Center ceremonies yesterday that they are the world's best hope, and said their school can help Hawai'i educationally, environmentally and economically.

"You are the University of Hawai'i, and we are very proud of you," Dobelle told his first UH graduating class, pouring on the one-on-one charm that has had waves parting before him in Hawai'i's academic and political seas since he arrived here six weeks ago from Trinity College in Connecticut.

Dobelle said he wants to put UH on the list of first choices even among those who can afford to go to the Mainland, and tell faculty that "once more, after a long lapse, creativity and initiative will be rewarded here."

His first job is to get the resources for a faculty that has been over-managed, underpaid, and under-led, Dobelle said, promising to bring foundations, charities, other governmental sources and private industry to the aid of the school.

He's laid out an 11-point plan for the future of the university, launched a drive to create a film school, talked about building a new football stadium, and proposed a four-year campus for Maui.

Hawai'i has suffered economically, but cutting back is no way to win the war of ideas in which the university is engaged, Dobelle said.

Part of the problem is that the public looks at the university as just another interest group competing for resources, and doesn't see it is linked with the entire community in the effort to make Hawai'i self-sustaining, he said.

Noting that 20 of the 30 doctorates awarded yesterday went to people from outside Hawai'i (Mainland U.S., Taiwan, Ghana, England, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Italy, India, and Germany), Dobelle said the strength of the post-graduate program internationally will make the university even more attractive to undergraduate students from other places.

After the ceremonies and interview, Dobelle struggled out of his academic gown and said he couldn't wait to remove his tie, the first one he's worn since he arrived, in favor of aloha attire.

Dobelle said he also can't wait to deliver some results.

Since being named to succeed Kenneth Mortimer, Dobelle has sought and won enormous media attention. He said he knows the publicity has raised expectations, and he wants to meet some of them before raising more.

"This was an action plan, not a wish list," he said. He offered the film school as an example. "This isn't about analyzing the films of Woody Allen, or being Steven Spielberg," but about becoming the pre-eminent film school for all of the Pacific and Asia, he said.

"And I never say something impulsively. This is something I have focused on and have allocated resources to, to see that this not only becomes a reality, but becomes a reality quickly."

Dobelle said Saturday that he has given $50,000 to Manoa Chancellor Deane Neubauer to form an exploratory committee to study the possibility of a film school.

Dobelle unveiled the idea for a film school Aug. 4, saying it could help the state's economy without adversely affecting Hawai'i's environment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.