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Mitchell K. Dwyer   |   Staff Writer
May 2, 2024
  • Emanuel and Teresa Makuakāne-Drechsel

In 2014, Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language held a blessing for its new building on the campus at UH Hilo. Untying the ceremonial maile vine – in Hawai‘i’s version of a ribbon-cutting – was Lydia Makuakāne, a longtime Hawaiian language resource for the college. Lydia was raised by her grandmother in a south Puna community where Hawaiian was spoken. Her husband and family also spoke the language.

The following year, Lydia’s daughters established the Daniel and Lydia Makuakāne Endowed Fund for students at Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani to honor their parents. When students received the first scholarships soon after, Lydia was there to meet the recipients. “Until 2019, she met them all,” says her daughter, Dr. Teresa Makuakāne-Drechsel, “and it was always special.”

Scholars continuing the work

Jainine Kaululehua Ekau just completed her master’s degree in Indigenous Language and Cultural Education. She says she exhausted other financial aid options, but was able to continue her studies as a 2023-24 recipient of the Daniel and Lydia Makuakāne Scholarship, strengthening her foundation for teaching in schools where all instruction is in the Hawaiian language.

“I will continue my work as a kumu at the Hawaiian medium school so I can teach and prepare our keiki in the mother language of this ʻāina,” she says. “So much knowledge has been passed down to me, and now it’s my turn to pass my knowledge to others.”

The Daniel and Lydia Makuakāne Fellowship was instrumental in Bruce Torres Fischer’s completing a master’s degree in Hawaiian Language and Literature. “Without it,” he says, “I would probably have been unable to set aside time to dive into research for my thesis on native speakers’ pronunciation.”

Bruce says, “I am honored and grateful to receive this fellowship paving the way for graduate students so that we can take the language, culture, and our scholarship to new heights. As a worker at the Kaniʻāina: Voices of the Land digital audio archive, it is also special to me to receive support from a scholarship named after one of the cherished mānaleo (native speakers) whose voice I've had the privilege to digitize and preserve.”

From left: Zak Shimose, Robbie Shimose, Corina McLellan, Annie Makuakāne, Victor McLellan, Bruce Torres Fischer, Jainine Kaululehua Ekau, Alapa‘i Kaulia, a UH Hilo scholarship recipient, Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, and Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a.

“We’re honoring their legacy”

Teresa and her husband, Dr. Emanuel Drechsel, first made gifts to the university after they received information from the College of Hawaiian Language seeking scholarship support for Hawaiian language students and faculty. Dr. Kalena Silva and Dr. Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a wrote the flier, and Puanani Woo sent it to Teresa.

“I’ve known Puanani since I was about 14,” she says. “She was my frosh year counselor at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. Kalena was my high school classmate. Keiki was a classmate at UH Mānoa. These long-standing relationships made me sit up and take notice.”

“We first gave to the program because of these relationships,” she says. Conversations with a UH Foundation development officer at UH Hilo inspired the family to consider a longer-lasting fund to honor her parents for their contributions in preserving and perpetuating Hawaiian language and cultural practice. “We continue to give because of these – and so many more – relationships, these connections to Hawaiian language and culture, because my parents grew up in a time and place where Hawaiian language was primary. We’re honoring their legacy.”

An investment in the community

Teresa, who received her BA in linguistics from UH Mānoa, and Emanuel, a retired UH Mānoa professor and adjunct faculty of linguistics, also established the Drechsel-Hubbard Endowed Fellowship for Indigenous Language-Culture Research, supporting UH Mānoa students working on their native or heritage Indigenous languages, especially those of the Pacific and North America. The endowment was named in honor of Emanuel’s sister, Ms. Cornelia Drechsel, and his stepfather, Dr. Laurence Stanley Hubbard, who provided initial funding for this fellowship.

The first recipient, Noah Ha‘alilio Solomon, defended his doctoral dissertation in April. “We were impressed with the work Ha‘a has been doing as a Hawaiian scholar and UH Mānoa faculty member in the Hawaiian Language Department,” says Teresa.

Beneficiaries of the Makuakāne and Drechsel families’ generosity also see the family’s investment paying off for the community. Alapa‘i Kaulia, a 2023-24 recipient of the Daniel and Lydia Makuakāne scholarship, graduates from UH Hilo in May, after which he will enter a graduate program for teacher certification by the state department of education.

“I have already been teaching for the past six years,” he says, “but this scholarship has helped me gain the credentials to be a highly qualified teacher at the only immersion program in Kona. Because of scholarships like this, the shortage of Hawaiian language kumu will quickly be resolved. Without them, I would not have made it through college.”

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.