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  • Bob Harrison, First Hawaiian Bank (FHB) chairman, president and CEO; Cameron Nekota, FHB Foundation president; Susan Yamada, PACE Board of Directors vice chair; Walter A. Dods, Jr., FHB former chairman, president and CEO

The First Hawaiian Bank Foundation, in partnership with Walter A. Dods, Jr., First Hawaiian Bank’s former chairman, president and CEO, have made a combined contribution of $500,000 to the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation. This substantial gift supports the UH Mānoa RISE project, a world-class innovation and entrepreneurship center coupled with student housing being built on the site of the former Atherton YMCA, across from the flagship campus.

The live-learn-work community at RISE — Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs — will be operated by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) at the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business. The new RISE building, which replaces the former Atherton YMCA, will wrap behind and connect to the historic pink Charles Atherton House. Groundbreaking for RISE is scheduled for January 13. A classroom in the new RISE building will be named in honor of Walter Dods, commemorating this important gift and the long-standing support from both Walter Dods and First Hawaiian Bank over the past several decades.

"Education is the cornerstone of a thriving, progressive society and the innovative learning opportunities for students participating in the RISE program is unmatched in Hawaiʻi," said First Hawaiian Bank Chairman, President and CEO, Bob Harrison. "First Hawaiian is proud to partner with Walter in supporting the RISE entrepreneurial center in developing the next generation of talented global business leaders."

"As a proud graduate and lifetime supporter of the University of Hawaiʻi, I am honored and pleased to be part of this special project," said Dods. "I want to thank Bob Harrison and the bank for matching my gift and for supporting the RISE project. I firmly believe that education is the great equalizer for many in our community. We desperately need critical thinkers and entrepreneurs in a state so reliant on small- and medium-sized businesses and I believe RISE will be a breakthrough investment in our future."

rendering of RISE building
Rendering of RISE building

When completed in 2023, RISE will have 7,263 square feet of multi-purpose co-working, meeting, lab and classroom space, as well as 374 dormitory beds for undergraduate and graduate students. RISE will attract qualified students of all backgrounds and majors across the UH System who can come together to explore their passions, test ideas, access support services and launch businesses within an ecosystem that fosters collaboration and entrepreneurship under the direction of PACE.

Through PACE’s expanded portfolio of interactive programming, students will learn tangible and intangible skills essential to success in any career choice be it the corporate track or a start-up—the ability to problem solve, flex their creative muscle, collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds, process information critically and communicate effectively.

"Under Walter Dods, Jr.’s and now with Bob Harrison’s leadership, First Hawaiian Bank pioneered and continues to be a trailblazer in providing clients with innovative solutions and embracing technological advances," said Susan Yamada, vice chair of the PACE Board of Directors. "This gift to RISE supports our shared vision of nurturing entrepreneurial thinking and innovative problem solving within our students who will be the next generation of leaders. We are grateful for this generous donation and proud to partner with Mr. Dods and the First Hawaiian Bank as we prepare our youth for future success."

FHB’s legacy of support for UH

First Hawaiian Bank Foundation’s gift to the UH RISE project highlights a storied history and commitment of supporting the UH System. Central to the core mission and vision of First Hawaiian and the foundation, the bank values the opportunities that the UH System provides the community, teaching the skills of innovation and entrepreneurship through organic and creative means to engage students to become our future leaders.

First Hawaiian Bank and the First Hawaiian Bank Foundation have provided support for UH across several areas including: UH Foundation, UH Alumni Association, UH Athletics, Shidler College of Business and Shidler Alumni Association.

With First Hawaiian Bank Foundation and Walter A. Dods, Jr. partnering to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Hawaiʻi, UH will be able to offer local students an educational opportunity here in Hawaiʻi found in very few global universities and will serve as a beacon to attract entrepreneurial students and innovators from around the world. This will fortify and grow areas of excellence at UH such as astronomy, ocean science, engineering, tropical agriculture, law, medicine, business and others with the potential to provide licensing and equity return cash flows to the university.

The RISE project

The RISE project is being built under a public-private partnership between the UH Foundation, which bought the property on University Avenue in 2017, the University of Hawaiʻi and developer Hunt Companies. The $70 million construction cost is being funded by tax-exempt bonds, which will be repaid with dorm fees. No taxpayer funds will be used for the project. 

Demolition of the existing Mary Atherton Richards House at the corner of University and Seaview avenues was completed in November, while interior demolition of the historic Charles Atherton House followed. Groundbreaking on the new six-story modern building, which will wrap behind the historic pink Charles Atherton House, is scheduled January 13. 

Moss is the general contractor on the project, The Wilhelm Group is the construction manager and Design Partners Inc. is the lead architect. 

FOR UH • FOR HAWAIʻI, The Campaign for the University of Hawaiʻi, is focused on raising $1 billion to support UH priorities on all 10 campuses across the state, including student success; research that matters; kuleana to Native Hawaiians and Hawaiʻi; sustainability, resilience and conservation; innovation and entrepreneurship; building Hawaiʻi’s workforce; and engaging our community. Learn more at

Questions? / More Information

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.

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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.

First Hawaiian Bank was founded in 1858 as Bishop & Co. and is Hawaiʻi’s largest bank offering consumer and business customers a comprehensive suite of financial services, including online, mobile banking, mobile deposits, lending, merchant services, wealth management, insurance and credit cards. The bank has 49 branch locations in Hawaiʻi, three on Guam and two in Saipan. First Hawaiian Inc. (NASDAQ:  FHB) is the parent company of First Hawaiian Bank.

The First Hawaiian Bank Foundation is the charitable arm of First Hawaiian Bank. It is the largest Hawaiʻi corporate foundation contributing to charities in Hawaiʻi, Guam and Saipan. The Foundation focuses on building healthier communities, creating educational opportunities, improving the lives of those in need, and celebrating our diverse cultural life.

The Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) is the home for an integrated set of leading-edge entrepreneurship programs at the University of Hawai‘i. Based in the Shidler College of Business, PACE is dedicated to fostering the entrepreneurial spirit among all members of the University and local community. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @PACEhawaii.

The Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa was established in 1949 as the College of Business Administration and named in 2006 after alumnus Jay H. Shidler, founder and managing partner of The Shidler Group. The Shidler College of Business is renowned for its expertise in international management education and is consistently ranked among the nation's top business schools for international business by U.S. News & World Report. Long recognized for its Asia Pacific focus, the college offers a wide variety of degree, certificate and executive programs. The college offers the only graduate program in the state of Hawai‘i and is Vietnam accredited by AACSB International.

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa serves approximately 20,000 students pursuing more than 225 different degrees. Coming from every Hawaiian island, every state in the nation, and more than 100 countries, UH Mānoa students thrive in an enriching environment for the global exchange of ideas. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter