Recognizing Contributions in Vocational Education

Masaki & Momoe Kunimoto Memorial Award

In 1991, Tadashi (Tad) and Elizabeth (Liz) Kunimoto, with the help of their brother Earl Kunimoto established the Masaki and Momoe Kunimoto Memorial Award for two purposes: 1) to honor their parents and 2) to celebrate outstanding contributions made by faculty and staff in the area of career and technical education at UH community colleges.

Since 1993, this award has been given each year, alternating between a faculty member and a student.

Although they were born and raised in Hawai‘i, Tad and Liz met at the University of Michigan. Tad was the first of his family to attend college thanks to the encouragement of a high school mentor and the sacrifice of his parents, Masaki and Momoe. Tad returned to Hawai‘i with his engineering degree and a new bride. He and Liz started a family and had two sons and a daughter.

Over his career, Tad worked at Pearl Harbor, the Federal Aviation Administration, M&E Pacific and as a consultant in mechanical engineering.

“Tad’s mother and father were really hands-on people in the field and always doing service for others,” said Liz Kunimoto, which is why she thought an award in their honor at the community colleges would be most appropriate.

Raised by a progressive father who encouraged her to pursue a doctorate, Liz continued her education while raising her family. She received her MA in speech and PhD in educational psychology from UH Mānoa, where she earned tenure in the School of Communications. For a number of years she also served part time as a staff development coordinator for the community colleges at the invitation of Chancellor Joyce Tsunoda.

Tad’s parents had the means to help him with his education because of their hard work. After moving from Hawai‘i Island to O‘ahu, Masaki and Momoe founded Chikara Products, Inc., specializing in Hawai‘i foods such as Maui Natto and Chikara Konnyaku company. Their popular food items could be found across the islands.

After his parent’s deaths, Tad and Liz wanted to do something in their memory that reflected their lives.

“Because of my work with Dr. Tsunoda, I came to respect all the staff members and people at the community colleges. I really appreciate the hands-on training and relationship-building at these campuses. I knew it would really be worth doing something there, and Tad was very happy about this award.”

After 60 years of marriage, Tad passed away. Liz, his children and their spouses, and five grandchildren will carry on his legacy of love. He also leaves this award, which will continue to memorialize his parents and help his community for generations to come.

2012 Award Recipient

Roy Kamida, professor/CPA, Leeward Community College

“I teach accounting and business courses with a specialization in taxes for Leeward’s Business Division. I am also the coordinator for Leeward’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program where current students, alumni, and community members volunteer to prepare tax returns for qualifying low to moderate-income taxpayers.

I am appreciative of my colleagues who nominated me for this award and their dedication to our career and technical education (CTE) programs. It motivates me to continue providing our students with real-work, hands-on experiences through our CTE programs. Half of the monetary award helped fund refreshments for our 80+ participants in our volunteer tax program. The other half of the award was re-contributed to Leeward’s Business Division’s UH Foundation account for use in its three CTE program areas.

To the donors I say, ‘Mahalo! Your family’s contribution provides special recognition to our CTE students and faculty. This, in turn, supported volunteers of Leeward’s VITA program to contribute their time and efforts in helping our community.’

Generous donors like the Kunimotos support students and faculty to learn, teach and serve.”


For Our University, Our Hawai‘i, Our Future