Ever since Dr. Rockne Freitas left the UHWO chancellor post, friends and community leaders have wanted to do something to honor the man who inspires people of all ages to dream big, and who did so much for his alma mater, UH.
With Rockne’s blessing, fundraising has begun for the Rockne Freitas Scholarship to support full scholarships for students attending UHWO, with a preference given to Native Hawaiian students.
Star athlete helps turn lives around
Dr. Freitas kick-started his career as a National Football League offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As a young professional football star, he was invited to speak to a group of “at-risk” students who were having difficulties at Kailua High School. 60% of the students happened to be Native Hawaiian. As he spoke to the students he was surprised to see how attentive they were to what he was saying. For him, it was the turning point from an impressive twelve-year career in professional football to a meaningful career impacting the lives of young people, and especially Hawaiian students.
The lessons he learned from his offensive coach that made him succeed on the football field were relevant and applicable to his administrative work on the college campus.
“We’re incredibly grateful to Rockne and fortunate that he chose to serve Hawaiʻi’s university for 23 years. He tackled diverse leadership positions for us, first in the UH Mānoa athletics department and then in his first stint as a UH vice president. After his return to UH he also served as chancellor at two different campuses on two islands and played key leadership roles in our higher education startups for the most underserved regions of the state. It has been a personal pleasure and honor to work with him in many positions over many years. He has inspired me and many others with his steadfast commitment to improving access and success in higher education, especially for Native Hawaiians.”
Lassner shared this comment in the 2015 UH News Story UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Rockne Freitas announces retirement
Freitas was a pioneer in Native Hawaiian advancement in both higher education and professional sports. He was the first permanent Native Hawaiian chancellor at a four-year university when he took the reigns at UH West Oʻahu in May 2013.
He was also the first Native Hawaiian to make all-Pro in the National Football League, a feat he accomplished three times. Freitas was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1972 season. Later, he was a part of the first Native Hawaiian father-son duo to be drafted in the NFL, along with his son Makoa, who was drafted in 2003 by the Indianapolis Colts.
Rockne’s successes continue to inspire Hawaiʻi’s youth and show us that with education, vision and persistence, anything is possible.
Giving back to his alma maters
Freitas attended Kamehameha Schools and graduated with a high school diploma in 1963. Freitas holds an EdD and MEd in education from UH Mānoa and BS in animal science from Oregon State University.
In 2015 Freitas retired from his position as University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu Chancellor following a nearly 23-year career in key leadership roles with the University of Hawaiʻi. Freitas previously served as the UH System’s vice president for student affairs and university/ community relations, where he provided leadership in systemwide student affairs policies and procedures and student life activities, as well as university and government relations and communication efforts. Freitas was also the chancellor of Hawaiʻi Community College for six years, serving as the chief executive of the main campus in Hilo and its University of Hawaiʻi Center in West Hawaiʻi.
During his tenure at UH, Freitas worked on key special projects, including the development of the new Hawaiʻi Community College Pālamanui Campus and Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao, a plan for the University of Hawaiʻi to become the model indigenous-serving higher education institution in the nation. He also led the planning and overall effort to guide UH Mānoa’s athletics programs into the Mountain West Conference and Big West Conference.
He also served as vice president and executive director of the Ke Aliʻi Pauahi Foundation and has held leadership positions at Kamehameha Schools and GRG Enterprises.
Support UHWO students and nurture the leaders of tomorrow
We invite you to help build on Rockne’s immense legacy and make a gift to the Dr. Rockne C. Freitas Scholarship.