Gilbert D. Kobatake was a dedicated man, dedicated to his country, to his family and dedicated to the achievement of his professional aspirations. There was also a rascal side to him; he learned how to brew okolehau in the basement of his parent’s hotel in Pahoa in the 1920s and he had a penchant for blowing things up – perhaps a remnant from his service as an officer with the 442nd RCT – 232nd Combat Engineer Company during World War II. But he was kind and gentle. The worst thing his children ever heard him say about another person was, “He’s not a nice man.” A well-respected structural engineer and surveyor with the demeanor of a Buddhist monk, he valued education and regretted at the end of his life that he hadn’t acquired more financial resources so he could do something for his alma mater. He was a 1934 graduate of the College of Engineering at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
In 1977, Gilbert retired from the day-to-day duties of his engineering firm and passed the mantel to his son Ken and daughter-in-law Sue-Ann. To reflect the evolution of the new generation, Delta Construction Corporation was born. Gilbert’s knowledge and experience provided valuable counsel to this fledgling second generation company. However, as in many a case, knowledge alone does not a successful business make, so determined to solidify Delta’s capital structure, Ken and Sue-Ann used all the money they had been saving to purchase their first home.
Building on Gilbert’s reputation, focusing on the development plans for West O‘ahu, investing a lot of hard work, and hiring good people, Ken and Sue-Ann’s company did well. When Ken was preparing to transfer the company to Delta employees, he realized he was in a position to do something that his father had always wanted to do. To fulfill his dad’s dreams as well as realize tax benefits, Ken and Sue-Ann chose to create Delta Construction Scholarships at Leeward Community College and UH West O‘ahu.
“Dad wanted a building, but I think we need to help people,” Ken explains. “For 30 years we made our living out this way [in West O‘ahu]. Now it’s time to give back. We really want people from this area to get the education they need to truly succeed and make this area what it can be – a real city with a mix of people and people who are educated.”
The gift agreement states: “The purpose of these scholarships is to provide support to students of the West O‘ahu region to help change their lives through higher education; positively impact their families and communities; and raise hope and pride in West O‘ahu. These funds are being established in honor of Gilbert D. Kobatake … Mr. Kobatake possessed a strong connection to his family, workers, and community. The employees of Delta Construction Corporation with KSK Foundation establish these funds to provide the means to empower students through higher education.”
Although the scholarships won’t be fully endowed and producing income until 2015, the donors chose to provide expendable support to launch the scholarships sooner. Using these annual contributions, the scholarships have benefitted 19 students at the two UH West O‘ahu campuses. As the recipients report, the scholarships are indeed empowering them.
“Growing up, I had a hard life. Being taken away from my parents at only age 6, being placed in CPS and adjusting to strangers and their families was what I dealt with, what my siblings dealt with. How would I cope with it? I would strive to work hard in school, earning the best grades so that one day when I see my parents again, they will be proud of me. This scholarship has helped me a lot. It has helped me buy books for classes and bus passes. Also, this scholarship made it possible for me to attend the Disney College Program in Florida and represent Wai‘anae, LCC, and Hawai‘i. My future plans are to continue going to school, get a good career that I love, own my own home and provide for myself and family. I love learning new things. I believe my future is bright, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for me!”
Scholarship recipients include:
Leeward CC student Stephen Sabala, a Campbell High School graduate from a lower middle class family, is used to making do with what he has. He hopes to get his associate’s in science in engineering and transfer to UH Mānoa for a BS in mechanical engineering. Last semester he was taking 18 credits and working a part-time job.
“The scholarship has helped me immensely and taken some stress off of me, for which I am very grateful. The thing is education comes at a price that not all people can pay. With me, it’s a little hard going to school with the cost of education being high, the time and dedication it takes, and making ends meet at the end of the day as well. This scholarship has truly been a blessing and I am very grateful that this scholarship exists.”
Robert Mun graduated with a degree in psychology from UH West Oahu this spring, but he will continue to take pre-medical science courses so he can attend medical school in the future. He is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and has served in student government and as a peer mentor. “Being a full-time student isn’t an easy task. At night, I take care of my elderly grandparents which leaves almost no time to make enough money to support myself. This scholarship has greatly taken a burden off of my back. Without it I wouldn’t be able to achieve my goals and aspirations. It gives me money for supplies and books, gas and food, every penny counts!”
Diana Nomura is working toward her Associates in Science in Civil Engineering at Leeward so she can transfer to UH Mānoa to get her Master’s. “My scholarships helped me in many different ways because I don’t have a job but I pay for my tuition myself. I am very grateful for the opportunity that Delta Construction Corporation gave me to stay in school and get an education.”