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Return on Investment: Joy

July 31, 2013

Walter A. and Diane N. Dods Endowed Scholarship Fund

Walter and Diane Dods
Walter and Diane Dods

When Walter and Diane Dods chose to create an endowed scholarship fund at the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, they didn’t realize that their investment would provide a personal return of incalculable value.

Although Walter and Diane had always been giving back to the community, they had an opportunity with the sale of First Hawaiian Bank to give back at a level they’d never been able to before.

Diane attended UH on a four-year State of Hawai‘i scholarship. She remembers, “My father was ill at the time and I have always appreciated the financial support that I received when I needed it most.”  In addition, Walter and Diane admired immigrants and their struggle to educate their children.  So together they donated $1 million to endow scholarships to help public school students from immigrant families attend UH.

"For us, it’s just the joy that we’re able to help people get educated. I remember how hard and what a struggle it was to get educated myself. To me the return is the joy of seeing another person get a chance."

– Walter Dods

As Walter tells the story, “A year or two ago I was working out and all of a sudden I had a numbness going up my arm all the way up to half of my face.  My trainer recognized right away that something was seriously wrong.” 

They called 911 and soon he was at the hospital being examined, scanned, and tested.  While he was in a room being monitored, a physician intern came in, read his chart, and asked, “Are you the Dods from the Dods Scholarship?”

When Walter replied yes, the intern told him, “I went through the University of Hawai‘i medical school on your scholarship.  You’re not going to die on my watch.”

“That brought tears to my eyes,” Walter remembers.  “That was my only real contact with her. She was very, very nice and thorough. I told my wife it really brought it all home to me: Give a person a chance.”

Walter had experienced a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) that resembles a mini stroke.  Fortunately, there has been no long-term effect. The intern was Dr. Van Luu who is a hospitalist at Queen’s Medical Center now. 

Since the Dods scholarships were established in 2001, 50 students have benefitted from Walter and Diane’s generosity – many of them over multiple years.

Coming Full Circle

Walter A. and Diane N. Dods Scholar Dr. Van Luu

Dr. Van Luu
Dr. Van Luu

Dr. Van Luu is the youngest of 5 children.  She and her family emigrated from Vietnam to Hawai‘i when she was eight.  “My father was part of the South Vietnamese troops and was detained in the ‘reeducation’ program imposed by the governing communists,” she remembers.  “We came to the United States as refugees and stayed in the refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines prior to coming to the U.S.”

All five children attended McKinley High School and graduated from college.  “Besides myself, my brother is also a physician.  Another brother is an electrical engineer.  My sister is an Eastern Medicine practitioner.  And my other sister is a stay-at-home mom.  We’re all able to live the ‘American Dream.’”

Choosing her career

Dr. Luu slowly discovered her passion for medicine as a means to help her explore her questions about life.  She admits, “In high school and early college years, I was clueless about what career I wanted to pursue.  I did OK in terms of grades but didn't know where I would fit in.”  After she took her first biology class, she started finding her direction.  “I loved what I was learning.  From there, I took more science classes and it was pretty cool to learn about life and existence down to the molecular level.  From my science classes, I met friends who were interested in Pre-Med.  I wanted to give it a try.  Each step of the way, I really enjoyed the knowledge I was acquiring, as well as the fascinating professors who taught their classes with such enthusiastic energy. 

She explains, “Ever since I became aware that death is inevitable in life, I was always scared of it...of losing loved ones and dying myself.  However, I wanted to become a physician when I realized that I can apply what I love (Biological science) to, hopefully, delay death or somehow contribute to alleviating pain and suffering.  I didn't realize what a perfect career choice I’d made until I was in medical school and began to learn more about diseases and started seeing patients.  It is awesome to be able to go to work being challenged intellectually every day and loving what you do.”

Receiving the Dods Scholarship

In her first year in medical school, Dr. Luu received the Dods Scholarship.  “One of the great aspects about the scholarship is that I only applied once and automatically received the monetary award yearly through all four years.  The scholarship enabled me to buy medical books and supplies each year.  With scholarships, financial aid, and loans, I did not have to work or ask my parents for assistance at all through medical school.”

"When I encountered Mr. Dods in my role as a physician, I was happy to see him but worried that he had been hospitalized. However, he ended up doing pretty well.

It felt like we came full circle with our initial meeting at the start of my education and subsequent meeting as his physician. He is still the same humble, sweet man."

– Dr. Van Luu

Meeting her benefactors

“I first met Mr. Walter Dods and his wife, Mrs. Diane Dods, as a recipient of their scholarship.  I remember meeting them vividly.  They were very kind and invited the recipients to meet with them for lunch at the First Hawaiian Bank building.  I remember hearing their personal stories of growing up, their upbringing, and their children.  I was enlightened by how humble and relatable both Mr. and Mrs. Dods were.  By meeting them, it made me see early in my career that one can also go far in life as a nice, easy-going person.

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.