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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 17, 2002

Outside support critical to university research efforts

By Frank Boas

Back in June, my broker called me with a "hot tip": the University of Hawai'i was about to issue $150 million in revenue bonds, having received strong marks from three national ratings agencies.

Researcher Andre Theriault works at his lab at the University of Hawai'i. The benefits of promoting research at UH are many.

Advertiser library photo • November 1999

It was a very attractive investment in the current investment climate — and not only for the 5.24 percent 30-year yield: The revenue raised by that bond sale was to be used to finance initial construction of a new John A. Burns School of Medicine and biomedical research complex. UH broke ground on that complex this month.

This event is only the latest in a number of victories for UH research.

Last month alone, nearly $10 million of new National Institutes of Health grants were awarded to the UH medical school, including money for research into Native Hawaiian health and diabetic health disparities. Overall, money for research at the school has quadrupled in the past three years, following a trend that has seen outside support for UH research increase from $92.7 million in 1999 to $141.9 million in 2002 — a 53 percent increase. The University of Hawai'i Cancer Research Center generates almost $20 million in outside money each year from its $2 million state appropriation. For a state concerned with focused spending to promote economic growth, it doesn't get much better that that.

The university's need for enhanced outside support, the state's need for increased tax revenues and Hawai'i's need for economic diversification demand continued expansion of UH's research enterprise.

The benefits of promoting research are not only financial, and not for Ph.D.'s alone: Undergraduates are some of the main beneficiaries, as they are given the opportunity to encounter scholarship at the moment of discovery.

The world's best faculty and students seek out the world's best research universities. To retain and attract these scholars, UH must become one of our country's best research universities.

When the people of Hawai'i voted to give autonomy to UH, they expressed their desire to have ownership of their university. Direct investment in UH in the form of private giving is an important way to achieve such ownership. As a wise educator once said, "In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car."

As the chairman of the University of Hawai'i Foundation's Planned Giving Committee, I have seen firsthand how individuals can change the lives of students and faculty with gifts and charitable bequests. Furthermore, as the medical school bond issue has shown, there are many other ways to partner with a university on the move.

I urge everyone to buy into UH, not just by investing in UH bonds (which sold out in just four hours) but also by investing in the programs closest to their hearts. Community partnership is at the heart of every great university.

There are many reasons to be bullish on the future of the University of Hawai'i. Now is the time to do well by doing good.

Frank Boas serves on the board of the University of Hawai'i Foundation.