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Mitchell K. Dwyer   |   Staff Writer
March 20, 2023
  • Image of Hee computer lab

The newly renovated and renamed Tom W.S. Hee Undergraduate Computer Room at UH Mānoa’s Shidler College of Business is built for collaboration. New furniture, upgraded computer systems, and flexible working spaces reflect updated thinking about education for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, financiers, and managers.

“Tom would have admitted the days of working in individual cubicles in front of dimly lit computer screens was a feature of the past, where individual effort was the norm,” says Tony Ching, Tom’s uncle. “He would say that working in a team environment such as this computer lab is the norm now, rather than the exception. He would call on students today to grow accustomed to the virtual and real-time environment offered by the Hee Lab, and take the opportunity to develop interactive habits allowing people, ideas and creativity to produce innovation.”

Shidler Interim Associate Dean Elizabeth Davidson says, “The old lab provided basic IT tools—computers, access to the internet, basic software, printers—when many students did not have access at home. Now most students have a smartphone and laptop, and the campus has wireless connectivity everywhere. The new Hee Undergraduate Student Lab is designed for a different role. With its bright, open design, it’s now a welcoming place for students to access specialized software, to meet and gather in person or remotely in the open area, or to find a quiet, comfortable space where they may work with their own devices between classes. Shidler students will feel at home in the collaborative workplaces of the future that businesses are turning to, with more hybrid, work-from-home options.”

A life of leadership and service

A 1978 Shidler graduate, Tom majored in accounting and Management Information Systems, cofounding the MIS club at Mānoa and receiving the Outstanding Student award. He founded Star Computers in Honolulu and worked for 19 years in the controller division at First Hawaiian Bank, where he rose to Vice President while offering network and programming support to all sections at First Hawaiian.

Tony stresses that although his nephew’s life was short, it was full and productive, touching many lives in his profession and through community service. “He suffered from hemophilia, but he didn’t suffer from a lack of leadership, achievement, entrepreneurial spirit, or dedication to family, work and community,” he says. “He served as president of the Ala Moana Jaycees and as MIS director for the Honolulu Marathon.”

Tom and his brother Michael had hemophilia, a condition preventing their blood from clotting, making every scrape or cut a threat to their lives. Michael died at age five in 1959. Tom died in 1998 at 43.

For students like Tom

Their parents, Clifford and Blanche Hee, were devastated. In memory of their children, they established the Clifford and Blanche Hee Endowed Scholarship in Honor of Thomas and Michael Hee, to provide support to students pursuing degrees or certificates in any area of study at Shidler College of Business.

Because they believed education helped Tom live a fulfilling life, they continued giving through their estate, and helped fund the Hee Lab upgrades.

“Clifford and my sister Blanche,” says Tony, “in their very understated and unassuming way, would have understood their contributions are enhancing the education of young adults like their Tom, to thrive in today’s global and interactive society. This family’s legacy will help others in need—for generations to come.”

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808-956-8700 or send us a message.