Honolulu philanthropist Walter A. Dods, Jr. has made a $5 million donation to the University of Hawaiʻi’s new Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs at UH Mānoa. In recognition of this momentous gift, the building will be named the Walter Dods, Jr. RISE Center.
Dods is an alumnus of UH Mānoa’s Shidler College of Business, a longtime donor to UH and former president of the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
His gift supports the student entrepreneurship and innovation center with housing for 374 students that opened in August. Programs at RISE are operated by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship at the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business. The historic new gift builds on his earlier gift to PACE announced last year.
“I’m honored to champion a program that’s growing new generations of critical thinkers and entrepreneurs who will create the businesses that grow Hawaiʻi’s economy,” said Dods. “I look forward to seeing the future these PACE at RISE students will create for themselves, our state and the world.”
Dods is one of the most influential businessmen and philanthropists in Hawaiʻi who’s been an active community volunteer and fundraiser since early in his career. He retired from First Hawaiian Bank in 2004 after a 36-year career with the bank, the last 15 years as chairman and CEO. A recognized industry leader, Dods was the National President of the American Bankers Association in 1996.
“Walter Dods has embodied leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation over his long career at First Hawaiian Bank as well as through his expansive and generous service to the community,” said UH President David Lassner. “It is beyond appropriate to link the Dods name to the premier place and program that will nurture our future leaders who will drive Hawaiʻi’s economy, and we thank Walter for his forward-thinking and generous commitment to our students.”
“Walter’s incredible vision and generosity enables us to attract passionate students, cutting-edge professionals and faculty, and offer meaningful programming at RISE,” said Sandra Fujiyama, executive director of PACE. “It’s so exciting to see these students transform into the next generation of changemakers and problem-solvers to start their own businesses or join existing ones.”
Dods’ roots in Hawaiʻi, and his dedication to the community, run deep.
Born to a blue-collar, working-class family in Honolulu, he went to work after graduating from Saint Louis School, and later attended night classes at UH Mānoa while working full time, graduating in 1967 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. In 1993, he was honored with the UH Distinguished Alumni Award.
His philanthropic support of UH stretches back to 1975, when he was among the founders of UH Foundation’s President’s Club to encourage support for UH from alumni, friends and community leaders. He served on the UH Foundation Board of Trustees, was its president from 1978 to 1980 and chaired the 1998 UH Campaign for Hawaiʻi that raised $116 million for the university.
Dods and his late wife, Diane, established the Walter A. and Diane N. Dods Endowed Scholarship Fund with a gift of $1 million, for students who are immigrants or children of immigrants. He also helped raise $1.6 million to establish the Dan and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals and co-chaired the committee to establish the Senator Daniel K. Akaka Regents Scholarship Endowment.
“Walter’s long dedication to community service and to UH is exceptional,” said Tim Dolan, UH vice president of advancement and UH Foundation CEO. “His exemplary leadership in business and philanthropy is inspiring and we couldn’t be more grateful for this special gift.”
In 2004, Dods was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, with Gold and Silver Star, an imperial honor from the Government of Japan.
Since retirement, he has served as the board chairman of Alexander & Baldwin, and later Matson. He was also a trustee of the Samuel Mills Damon Estate.
He also served as non-executive board chairman for Hawaiian Telcom and Mid Pac Petroleum. He is currently a director on the board of Par Pacific Hawaii.
RISE — a student innovation and entrepreneurship center with student housing for 374 students — was built as the first public-private partnership between UH, the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation and Hunt Development Group Hawaiʻi. It opened in August for the fall semester.
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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. uhfoundation.org