is an emotional and spiritual language. Words have multiple meanings depending
upon the emotion or feeling being conveyed. Take aloha. Commonly thought
of as a simple greeting or salutation, it actually suggests a deeper meaning.
For those who use it often, it conveys a strong emotion, similar to joy
Aloha `aina suggests a love for the land and all that it gives. With such
intense beauty all around, this type of aloha quickly overcomes even the
casual visitor to the Hawaiian Islands. For those who live in Hawaii,
the love of the land takes on a different, very personal meaning. Perhaps,
for some, the spiritual connection to the land comes from living on an
island. For others, it comes from an ancient belief that everything is
connected and must be cared for delicately. Each of the following Pomona
alumni has discovered his or her own aloha `aina and decided to do something
David Curtis '47
Dave and Dorothe Curtis came to Moloka`i to refocus their lives and ended
up helping the island refocus upon its history.
When the Curtises moved to Moloka`i in 1972, there were
only six other families of haoles--foreigners or outsiders. The population
was then and is now predominantly Hawaiian. In fact, many suggest that
Moloka`i resembles "old Hawai`i." Dave describes it as "unencumbered by
traffic, crowds and pollution, while maintaining its slow-paced way of
living." Yet the slow pace has, at times, allowed some of the island's
treasures to be overlooked, even forgotten.
Before coming to Moloka`i, Dave was trained as an architect
and Dorothe had enjoyed a career as an art museum curator. But their love
of nature and the special quality of life on Moloka`i presented them with
an opportunity to make a difference.
For his part, Dave became a farmer, starting with two
hundred acres of raw land. "It required a lot of clearing, irrigation
systems, windbreaks, roads, and farm buildings--an experience I found
challenging, yet rewarding," recalls Dave. While they sold the farm 10
years ago, he continues to feel "that it was, for me, a major life achievement."
Dorothe turned her interest to Hawaiian history, with
particular focus on Moloka`i. "This led to our active involvement in the
long-range planning of Moloka`i," Dave explains, "trying to bring it along
from a pro-tourist development stance to one more suitable for such an
unspoiled island with many of the attributes of old Hawai`i."
So perhaps it was a combination of Dorothe's love of
history and Dave's love of the land that led the Curtises to a decade
of hard work and one of their proudest achievements.
Another local family requested that they help restore
a small, 1878 animal- and steam-powered sugar mill. It was no longer in
operation, but all involved felt it was an important feature of the island
to retain. For the next 10 years, Dave and Dorothe led an effort to save
and restore the mill, which turned out to be the only one of its kind
in the United States.
Today, the sugar mill serves as one of the main attractions
on the island, and a museum stands next to the mill to teach all who stop
by about its legacy and its importance to the people of Hawaii.
"I still believe in the old concept that good health
and happiness are a result of being involved in meaningful work," Dave
says, "work that's important to you and to the well-being of others."
Ray Chuan '44
For Ray Chuan, aloha `aina means speaking up and not being afraid of confrontation.
It's a philosophy that has won over some and alienated others. For Ray,
that's just the price of making a difference.
From his first visit to Kaua`i in 1968, Ray fell in
love with the Garden Isle. What captured his heart was the beauty of the
ocean crashing onto the volcanic mountains. As his visits became more
frequent, he and his wife, Gene, decided to buy a vacation home in the
quiet little village of Hanali--famous as the home of Puff, the Magic
"In those days, there were very few haoles," explained
Ray. There were, in fact, but a handful of homes and a diverse mix of
cultures, represented by various families of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Filipino,
and Japanese descent, most of whom had lived on the island for generations.
The Chuans moved there permanently in 1988.
By his own assessment, "the perfect example of a liberal
arts graduate," Ray majored in physics and math at Pomona, then received
his Ph.D. from Caltech and began to pursue research in areas such as aerosol
science and plasma physics. His interest in the atmosphere led him to
the Four Corners region of the Southwest, where he spent years researching
the effects of pollutants from the area's power plants. Troubled by the
effects, he began to look at natural occurrences of pollution from volcanoes.
Despite the lack of any formal training in geology, Ray began a life long
interest in studying the effects of vog (volcanic ash). Living in Hawaii,
Ray has enjoyed numerous opportunities to explore the topic first hand.
He admits, however, that his scientific endeavors have
taken a back seat to his real interest--discussing and defending the delicate
cultural and environmental balance still found on Kaua`i. By his own account,
it has been one of the most challenging activities he has ever undertaken.
Accepting that progress and change are inevitable, Ray
speaks out not to roll back the clock but to urge caution and respect.
He applauded, for instance, Gov. Benjamin Cayetano's decision in 1998
to ban all commercial boating from Hanali as part of a renewed commitment
to protecting the environment. In the midst of so much beauty and opportunity,
Ray says, making decisions about change and progress is a difficult task,
despite the best of intentions.
Ray's approach can be direct and even harsh (he and
the Hanali mayor no longer speak). He regularly appears at County Council
and Planning Commission meetings, writes letters to the governor and the
local newspaper editor, and publishes a newsletter, which further expands
upon his views. "I have often been referred to as the eighth member of
the County Council," he notes.
Where Ray hopes to have the greatest impact, however,
is in encouraging others, especially locals, to step forward and be heard.
Informally, he meets with a group of individuals who share his desire
to see responsible change. The group, dubbed the "Nitpickers," takes on
the issues that concern them while trying to mobilize others.
A common encounter when Ray is in town is a local making
eye contact, followed by, "I saw you on TV"--referring to the island's
public access cable-TV system, which telecasts all Council and Commission
meetings. Then: "I like what you say."
In reply, Ray is quick to admonish, "But you gotta speak
Brian Schatz '94
A resident of O`ahu since the age of three, Brian Schatz displayed aloha
`aina at an unusually early age. As a student at The Punahou School, Brian
was a founding member of the Save the Earth Club, which focused on cleanups
of beaches and streams. His commitment to the environment and willingness
to lead others would stay with him into adulthood.
After graduating from Pomona with a philosophy major,
Brian returned to O`ahu with an interest in continuing his work with Save
the Earth. Brian met with members of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant
Extension Service and convinced them to join with him to develop a partnership,
thereby creating Youth for Environmental Service (YES). Devoted to the
simple idea of getting young people involved in their environment, the
program found numerous projects that needed volunteers to help revitalize,
re-energize, or simply clean up public areas on O`ahu. Starting where
he left off at Punahou, Brian worked with local schools to encourage students
to give just a little time to the cause.
"It was surprisingly easy to get kids involved," Brian
recalls. "It seemed like they were waiting for someone to tell them how
they could contribute to their community."
With a simple mission and dedicated staff, the YES program
expanded to the mainland. Today, YES chapters can be found in Los Angeles,
San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu and Makawao. Over 15,000 students have
been involved from more than 130 schools. They've maintained hiking trails,
cleaned beaches, and sponsored training programs to enable more students
to participate. YES does not work alone; instead they join with other
established organizations, such as the Surfrider Foundation and the Outdoor
Circle, to encourage broader support of their programs.
Students, who participate, even for just a few hours,
tend to become quick converts. According to one young student, "it felt
good to be out there giving back to the community. I would love to do
more things like this in the future."
Realizing he could continue to make a difference on
a larger scale, Brian ran for a State House of Representatives position
in 1997. He won by a narrow margin in 1998.
"Yes, I was totally surprised," he says. "Most people
told me that I wouldn't be successful, so even though I worked very hard,
my expectation was not to win the seat."
Since then, he has served on the Finance Committee,
as the assistant majority leader on the floor, and as vice-chair of ocean
and marine resources. Despite his short tenure, Brian has already received
national recognition for his work on the environment, receiving both the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Environmental Hero Award
and the Hawaii Audubon Society's President's Award.
While success and accolades may encourage some to rest
on their laurels, Brian remains focused on making a difference.
His advice for others: "Just be aggressive. Unfortunately,
there are people who don't like to see real action because it makes them
look lazy or irrelevant in comparison. Ignore those people and take action
immediately in a positive way."
Barbara Smith '42
Barbara Smith knows a great deal about aloha `aina. A person who cares
deeply about preserving the nuances of Hawaiian culture and getting them
right, she can even offer authoritative advice on how to spell it--glottal
stop, macron and all.
When she arrived on O`ahu in 1949 to teach piano at
the University of Hawai`i, the curriculum called for the study of the
great European masters, as was the norm for most mainland music programs.
Barbara had taught music at the Eastman School of Music for six years
(where she also received a master's degree), so her experience and knowledge
of the field were appropriate for the task at hand. As she noticed immediately,
however, the majority of her students were not of European descent and
felt a certain insecurity about their own identity.
"I felt that what I was teaching was not helping to
bridge the gap or resolve the identity problems, but that music should
be able to help in both," she explains, "and I resolved to try to find
a way to accomplish this."
Slowly, carefully, she began to immerse herself in the
musical culture of the Pacific Rim. She learned the traditional art of
Iwakuni-style Bon dance drumming. She took private lessons on Hawaiian
chant and Japanese koto. As she became more familiar with these styles
of music, she began to introduce them in her courses. Others became interested
and entire courses were developed to study the various forms of music
found in this diverse region of the Pacific Rim.
There were, of course, roadblocks along the way. Many
Hawaiian families were reluctant to share their traditions and music with
anyone, particularly a haole. These treasured musical traditions were
considered personal property. Over time, however, Barbara and her colleagues
gained their respect and trust, and reluctance gave way to pride. According
to one of her former students, "[Barbara's] guidance led me out to stretch
my wings and take flight to other islands in the Pacific."
Over time, Barbara and her colleagues at the University
of Hawai`i developed new courses that focused on the study of music and
the relationship it shares with the development of a culture, a study
that eventually became known as ethnomusicology.
Today, the ethnomusicology program at the University
of Hawai`i is one of the world's most widely celebrated. The University
and the city of Honolulu have recognized Barbara's contributions by presenting
her with an Award of Excellence from the city, along with a plaque honoring
her "vision and dedication" to ethnomusicology and the University of Hawai`i.
According to Pomona's own ethnomusicologist, Katherine
Hagedorn, "She is a wonderfully engaged person with a generous sense of
responsibility, whose formidable intellect and continued activism serve
as a model for us in the Music Department, and especially for me." --Heath
Elliott is associate director of major gifts at Pomona College.