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  • Rendering shows UH Mānoa’s Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) project in the morning.

Rich and Eileen Wacker have committed a $250,000 gift to the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation in support of the UH Mānoa’s Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) project, a world-class innovation and entrepreneurship facility coupled with student housing on the site of the former Atherton YMCA across from the flagship campus.

The live-learn-work community at RISE will be operated by the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE).

“We think this project is a clear demonstrative statement by the university of its commitment to entrepreneurship, innovation and diversifying the economy of Hawaiʻi for our kids and for the community,” said Rich Wacker, chair of the UH Foundation board of trustees. “The unique thing about this is the live, work, study aspect of it—it’s unique among universities across the country.”

Rich Wacker is also a current member and former chair of the PACE board of directors and vice chair of the Hawaii Pacific Health board of directors. He served as president and CEO of American Savings Bank for more than 10 years, and past president of the Hawaiʻi Bankers Association. He is a past chair and current innovation chair of the Hawaiʻi Business Roundtable and the Hawaiʻi Executive Collaborative’s CHANGE innovation economy chair.

Eileen Wacker is an author of a series of children’s books, and founder of ONCEKids, a children’s literacy project. She is a member of the board of the Kapi‘olani Health Foundation for the Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children and a former board member at Assets School in Honolulu. The Wackers are parents of four children, the youngest of whom just started college this fall.

“Our main passion is for the next generation of people in Hawai‘i to think differently in a more interdisciplinary way and to be trained for the uncertainty that we're all going to face in the business environment,” Eileen Wacker said. “We think of it not as a donation but an investment because it's what we would want our kids to have.”

The Wackers’ gift is the one of the largest individual gifts toward PACE’s goal of raising $3 million to fund the RISE center’s furnishings, fixtures and equipment along with operational programs and student scholarships over the first 10 years.

“Mahalo to Rich and Eileen for this generous personal commitment that reflects their dedication to giving back to the Hawaiʻi community,” said Tim Dolan, CEO of the UH Foundation and UH vice president of advancement. “We are grateful for their forward-thinking philanthropy and investment not only in UH students, but in Hawaiʻi’s innovation economy of the future.”

Exterior demolition of the existing Mary Atherton Richards House at the corner of University and Seaview avenues began Tuesday, September 28, and is scheduled to be completed in November. Interior demolition of the historic pink Charles Atherton House and its additional wings will follow.

Groundbreaking on the new six-story modern building, which will wrap behind the Charles Atherton House, is scheduled for January. 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.

The $70 million project is being developed by a public-private partnership between UH, Hunt Development Group and the UH Foundation, which purchased the one-acre site on University Avenue in 2017 for $8 million. The tax-free bond financing will be repaid using dormitory fees; no taxpayer funds are being used for the project.

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

Rich and Eileen Wacker on a lanai with the ocean in the background. Rendering shows UH Mānoa’s Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) project from Metcalf Street. Rendering shows UH Mānoa’s Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) project in the evening. Demolition on the Mary Atherton Richards building started on Sept. 28, 2021, to make way for UH Mānoa’s RISE project.

Questions? / More Information

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.

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 Instagram and Twitter @PACEhawaii. For more information about RISE, visit

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 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

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