The legacy of the late educator and government planner Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a is being celebrated through the establishment of a new endowment at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.
Gordon Pi‘ianai‘a of Honolulu and Norman Pi‘ianai‘a of Kamuela have made a gift through the University of Hawai‘i Foundation to create a new permanently endowed fund to honor their sister and expand access to educational programming at ‘Imiloa by K-12 students.
In announcing the gift, ‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka‘iu Kimura stated, “Just as we are marking the 11th anniversary of our opening, ‘Imiloa is thrilled to have our very first permanent endowment, a fund that will benefit the center in perpetuity and enable us to share our unique brand of programming with both current and future generations of young people. We are humbled by the Pi‘ianai‘a family’s vote of confidence in ‘Imiloa and excited about what this will mean in our second decade and beyond!” UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney added, “This wonderful gift will benefit the children of Hawai‘i for years to come.”
Born and raised on O‘ahu, Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a (1947-2006) pursued a noteworthy career in the public sector, starting with her service as a Hawai‘i County planner helping to develop a general plan for the island. She later served with the Hawai‘i Community Development Authority and worked on the Kaka‘ako Improvement District, among other projects. She lectured in geography and planning at UH Mānoa from 1980 to 1984, administered the Task Force on the Hawaiian Homes Commission from 1982-1983, then held appointments as Hawai‘i County deputy planning director, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, director of the Office of International Relations and Affairs, and deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture.
Norman Pi‘ianai‘a commented about his sister, "Even though Ilima was from Honolulu, she loved the Big Island and its people. She moved here around 1970 and mentored in the Planning Department under Director Raymond Suefuji during the days of Mayor Shunichi Kimura, a time when things were in a process of great change in Hawai‘i. With ancestral roots firmly planted here, we are confident that Ilima would be pleased to know she has in this way returned and will continue to help nurture and contribute to the future education and development of Hawai‘i Island youngsters."
A longtime friend of Ilima, Deanne Lemle Bosnak, remembers her as “a perfect embodiment of ‘aloha.’ She personally represented Hawai‘i’s beautiful blend of cultures, its warm hospitality and its welcoming aloha spirit. She was also a diplomat who worked hard to build bridges between disparate communities and cultures, demonstrating in everything she did a deep respect for the land and the values of its people.”
Annual distributions from the Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a Endowment will support access to ‘Imiloa by local elementary, middle and high school students, and may include subsidized admission and or transportation to the center, subsidized fees for ‘Imiloa programs, and/or program outreach to rural parts of Hawai‘i Island and the state.