On second thought, she wins
By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer
The University of Hawai'i has awarded Mary Anne Meyers its Presidential Scholarship after all, overturning a decision by a campus committee that she did not fit the residency criteria because she didn't pay state taxes.
On the heels of a story in Thursday's Advertiser about Meyers' predicament and how she was not allowed to accept the university's top-rated scholarship, the university administration determined that Meyers, who has lived in Hawai'i for three years and who plans to remain here, does meet the residency criteria.
Meyers, a 39-year-old Air Force wife who has gone back to school to become a teacher, was ecstatic when she heard the news.
"It means I can finish my education," she said between delighted shouts yesterday. "As soon as I get it finished I'll be out in the community teaching and hopefully I can reach the kids in places like Kalihi and Moloka'i and Kaua'i and make a difference. Especially with our shortage of teachers now, if Hawai'i wants to be a Pacific leader, you can't leave any child behind in education. Our kids are our whole future."
Paul Costello, UH vice president for external affairs, said the selection committee consulted with the general counsel's office and determined that Meyers is indeed a resident and fits the criteria.
"President (Evan) Dobelle believed it (the previous ruling) didn't fit the common-sense test and asked the committee to go back and review it," said Costello.
"She will be awarded the scholarship, based on her voting record and driver's license and the fact she's not a dependent (for tax purposes) anywhere else."
Meyers, who holds a 4.0 grade point average and has been called an outstanding student, won the exclusive honor, but then lost it after a committee decided she wasn't a resident because she hadn't paid Hawai'i taxes. At stake was a scholarship that provides a total of $17,000 in tuition waivers, cash stipends and travel benefits.
Though she protested that she had no income because she spent her time as a volunteer, it didn't affect the committee's decision.
"I hope this means they're going to be looking at people who volunteer differently," she said.
Meyers and her husband, Senior Master Sgt. Doug Meyers, were stationed at Hickam Air Force Base in 1999.
Meyers went back to school at Honolulu Community College two years ago and will be transferring to the Manoa campus in the fall as a junior.
In the past year she has also been volunteering in the community, compelled by President Bush's call for all citizens to be involved as volunteers in some way. "He said everyone ought to donate two years out of their life to give back to their community. I'm doing that."
When she completes her bachelor's degree and is ready to start teaching, Meyers plans to continue her schooling by taking her masters and then doctorate in evening courses or through distance learning.
"I'll be telling my students and showing them by example that education is a life-long process and you can learn something new every day," she said. "My grandmother used to tell me 'Be a sponge, soak up everything.' Education means everything to me; it took me 20 years to go back to school, but if it takes till I'm 80 I'll get my doctorate."
As an aftermath of Meyers' case, Dobelle plans to ask the Board of Regents to review the residency criteria to see if changes need to be made.
Reach Bev Creamer at email@example.com or 525-8013.