UH alumnus, economics professor, teacher and lifelong learner Ward Mardfin is making generous annual gifts to help fund a graduate economics student’s education.
We asked him about the role UH has played in his life and his giving back. Here is what he shared.
“I first tried to go to college on the mainland right after graduating from high school and after having spent the previous two summers in Hāna, Maui. It did not go well. I flunked out after three semesters and returned to Hāna to work. Two years later, UH Mānoa accepted me as an unclassified student on academic probation but I had to defer attending until three years later due to three years in the U.S. Army – the last spent in Vietnam.
In Fall 1968, I was a 24 year old freshman living in Johnson Hall. Due to my increased maturity and motivation I did very well and graduated three years later with a major in economics. I was in the Honors program and Dr. Burnham Campbell, as economics department chair was my academic adviser. He always encouraged me to try new things academically.
Another year and a half earned me a MA in economics. UH hired me to be an economics teaching assistant and later a lecturer so I got teaching experience. In 1976, I began lecturing and developing a curriculum at what was then called West Oahu College (now UHWO) when it first began offering courses. I continued to work toward my Ph.D. in economics with Burnie Campbell as my dissertation chair. I earned my doctorate in 1979 and, at Burnie’s suggestion, applied for a position as assistant professor at Hawaii Loa College (now Hawaii Pacific University) in Kaneohe. A few years after teaching at Hawaii Loa, I took classes at UH’s College of Business, earning an MBA in 1985, so that I could have a better background for my own students.
I truly believe in lifelong learning and UH has always been a terrific place for continuing my education.
At every step in my academic career, Burnie was there for me, giving me advice, encouraging me, writing letters of recommendation and just being a friend. He helped me get a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at the University of the South Pacific (Suva, Fiji) in 1987 and later a one year teaching gig in Luxembourg (1991-92) for Miami University’s study abroad program.
The last degree I earned from UH was a teaching certificate from the College of Education (2001) so I could retire early and return to Hāna as a high school social studies and math teacher. Each of the past four summers, I have returned to Mānoa to take classes of interest, living in student apartments, and doing research on a history of Hāna. Truly I would not be the same person without the major influence of the University of Hawai‘i.
When I was asked to contribute to the UH Foundation to partially fund a graduate student’s education, I thought about it. All along I had been helped and influenced by many UH faculty. I would not have had the life I have lived if it had not been for Burnie and many others.
I quickly came to the conclusion that I should pay it forward and I continue to make contributions to help other students have the same opportunities that I have had.
If the students my donations help to support have even half the success and happiness that I have had they will be lucky indeed.”