Pearls of opportunity

 Kapi'olani CC summer study abroad students experience the beauty of dressing in traditional kimono while at Chikushi Jogakuen University in Fukuoka, Japan.

Paul S. Honda

Paul S. HondaWhen the late Paul S. Honda was starting what would later become his highly successful international gems trading business, he had to trade a very special possession of his own. To found Honda & Company, he sold a seven strand pearl necklace given to him by his mother—a gift that would end up having a lasting impact on the lives of many. But the road to success was not without difficulties.

Honda was born in Manchuria and raised in Tokyo, and later returned to his homeland to attend the National University of Manchuria as an exchange student. His studies however were interrupted at the end of World War II when the Russian army took control of Manchuria. Honda was ordered to attend Moscow University and when he refused, he was sent to a labor camp where he remained until he fled to the Chinese port of Dalian.

Unable to resume his studies in Manchuria, Honda completed his bachelor’s degree at Nagoya University’s College of Economics and later completed his MBA studies at the University of Denver, where he met his wife Mitsuko.

Learning beyond the classroom

Through his experiences of living and studying abroad, Honda developed a deep understanding and appreciation for international travel. In 1997, he made the first of his many gifts to the University of Hawai‘i supporting international travel opportunities for students. The Paul S. Honda International Opportunities Fund provides funding for scholarships and other activities that support international education for students at any of UH’s seven community colleges.

Dr. Joyce Tsunoda, former senior vice president and chancellor for community colleges, remembers working with Honda to establish the fund. Because federal and private funding for travel and study abroad are rarely available for community college students, many are not afforded the opportunity to journey beyond their community.

“Paul immediately understood the problem,” recalls Tsunoda. “He said, ‘Learning goes beyond the classroom. Let’s set up an international opportunity fund for community college students.’”

“For many of our community college students, an international experience is beyond their financial means,” added Dr. John Morton, vice president for community colleges. “With this fund, deserving students experience exchange opportunities that transform their world view and bring value to their education that lasts a lifetime.”

Touching all corners of the world

In addition to the Paul S. Honda International Opportunities Fund, Honda went on to establish the Honda International Fund for Honolulu CC students, the Honda Scholarship for International Study, and supported the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head. Additionally, Honda served as a UH Foundation and East West Center trustee, and the Honda International Center at Kapi‘olani CC was named in his honor. Most recently, the Honda Foundation made a $50,000 gift in support of international professional development for Kapi‘olani CC faculty and staff.

“The opportunity to travel for professional development allows faculty to enhance their subject matter expertise by experiencing first-hand the culture, history, architecture, language, cuisine, music, religion, natural environment—all the sights and sounds that will enrich their teaching,” said Dr. Louise Pagotto, interim chancellor at Kapi‘olani CC.

Passing away just shy of his 88th birthday, Honda’s legacy lives on through the many opportunities his generosity has created, inspiring students and faculty to take their education to all corners of the world.

“He believed that one gets out of life what one puts into it, and his life reflects that philosophy,” added Tsunoda, “He turned his mother’s gift of strands into a rich, never-ending strand of shining human pearls.”

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