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  • David Lassner

University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner will donate $1 million to the For UH • For Hawaiʻi $1 billion fundraising campaign publicly launched on November 1. Lassner made the surprise announcement at an evening event celebrating the campaign and received a standing ovation from the more than 500 people in attendance.

“I would like to take this opportunity to make my own commitment to the campaign, something I never thought I would be able to do,” said Lassner. “I am personally pledging today $1 million to support graduate students working in [the] areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning or data science in service to the environment or humanity here in our islands.”

“It’s not surprising when university presidents endorse the very institutions they represent,” said Tim Dolan, the UH Vice President of Advancement and UH Foundation Chief Executive Officer. “What is very rare, however, in fact I have not seen it in 25 years doing higher ed philanthropy, is seeing a president make a seven-figure commitment leading the charge by example and to model such personal credibility.”

The UH Foundation campaign is considered the most ambitious, comprehensive fundraising campaign in Hawaiʻi’s history. Donors can select the programs and initiatives that they support for students, faculty and researchers at all 10 UH campuses. During his speech, Lassner explained how he came to UH from Illinois in 1977 on a one-year, half-time consultant contract and expected to return to the continent to complete his graduate studies in computer science.

“Like many who have been touched so deeply by Hawaiʻi and her people, I never went back,” said Lassner. “I have now spent my entire professional career here at UH and could not have asked for more, including these last 10 years giving back as an unexpected 15th president of UH.”

President shares importance of UH in community

Lassner highlighted numerous UH strengths and accomplishments in his speech. He called UH alumni the backbone of our communities:

“Anywhere you look across our state you will find a graduate from a UH campus making Hawaiʻi better.”

He commended UH faculty for teaching students to ask and answer the right questions, even hard ones, and praised both faculty and students for their wide array of important research:

“As we educate, we also provide the deepest insight in Hawaiʻi on the challenges and opportunities we face locally and around the planet. Our research and scholarship helps Hawaiʻi understand who we are and how we can live our best lives.”

And he noted the benefits of higher education:

“College graduates live longer, live healthier, earn more, are more resilient in the labor marketplace, are less likely to be incarcerated, draw on fewer social services, pay more taxes,
volunteer more and vote more. And this is a multigenerational effect: children of college graduates are themselves more likely to attend college, providing a way to break generational cycles of poverty and despair in some families.”

Lassner announced in September that he will retire at the end of 2024. For more information about For UH • For Hawaiʻi, The Campaign for the University of Hawaiʻi, visit


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.

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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.