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President's Office

Historical Survey

With the exception of the first semester of the College of Hawai‘i, spring 1908, there has always been either a president, interim president, or acting president of the University of Hawai‘i. That first semester, Willis T. Pope refused the title of Acting President and said he would accept the title Acting Dean instead. By the following autumn, John W. Gilmore, the first president of College of Hawai‘i, had arrived from his former post at the University of California.

Since the beginning of College of Hawai‘i there have been fourteen presidents of the University; six acting presidents; an acting Dean; and one interim president who also became president. As mentioned above, Willis T. Pope functioned as acting dean for spring semester 1908. He recruited five students from the Territorial Normal School where he was vice principle to attend College of Hawai‘i. They took preparatory classes under Pope and some others on the faculty. The following fall semester, under President John W. Gilmore, the classes taught were college level classes. Gilmore resigned in 1913, and John S. Donaghho, professor of mathematics, became acting president.

Arthur L. Dean was hired, effective fall semester 1914, as president, coming from Yale University. He remained president until 1927 when he resigned from the University and became head of the Pineapple Research Institute. President David L. Crawford, professor of entomology, became president in 1927 and held the office for the longest tenure in the history of UH, until 1941. He resigned after a controversial battle with some members of the Board of Regents and at least one faculty person. Nevertheless, he seems to have been well liked by the students and a considerable portion of the faculty. Arthur Keller, dean of the college of Applied Sciences at UH, became acting president.

Shortly after the entry of the United States into World War II, Gregg M. Sinclair became the fourth president of University of Hawai‘i. He retired in 1955, being the second longest president in the university’s history. Paul Bachman became president immediately following President Sinclair’s retirement. His early death in January 1957 gave him the shortest term as president. Bachman's death occurred in the midst of the planning for the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration (dating from the legislative approval of the College of Hawai‘i) held March 1957. Willard Wilson, professor of English and administrator in the University, functioned as acting president for about one and a half years.

Following World War II, the University expanded to include a campus in Hilo. Hilo College was a part of the University at Mānoa. Almost twenty years later, in 1965, the Hawai‘i State Legislature created the University of Hawai‘i System, incorporating many of the technical colleges in the state as community colleges in the System and raising Hilo College to University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. With this action, the university president’s role expanded to be in charge of all campuses with intermediaries over the individual campuses. At times, the president filled the role of chancellor for Mānoa campus, as well as president of the system; at other times the two offices were separated with two different individuals filling the offices. As a result, some of the records in the President’s Office record group will not contain as much material on Mānoa campus; one should also refer to the records in the Chancellor’s Office for additional material.

Laurence H. Snyder became the sixth president of University of Hawai‘i in 1958. Under his leadership, the University of Hawai‘i tried something very unusual, quitting participation in football in the fall of 1961. The regents reversed their decision less than one year later. Snyder left the presidency effective 1963, to be replaced by Thomas Hale Hamilton. Hamilton was president for another five years, resigning the presidency amid a struggle over the tenure of a controversial professor in 1968. Two acting presidents, Robert Hiatt and Richard S. Takasaki, led UH unitl the appointment of Harlan Cleveland as president became effective in fall semester 1969.

Fujio Matsuda, professor of civil engineering, became president in 1974 until 1984. Albert J. Simone became president following Matsuda’s retirement and remained in the presidency until 1992. The final acting president, Paul C. Yuen, held that office for the academic year 1992/1993. Kenneth P. Mortimer became president in 1993 until 2001. Evan S. Dobelle was president until 2004. David McClain, professor of economics became interim president and then president until 2009. M.R.C. Greenwood became the first woman to head the University in August 2009.


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Last edited: 20 December 2011

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