The UH System

Who We Are

History of the University of Hawai‘i System

First Faculty

In 1907, the Hawai‘i Territorial Legislature established the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Honolulu under terms of the U.S. land grant legislation. Ten students begin classes with 13 faculty members in September of the following year, and the first graduates received degrees - two in the sciences and one each in agriculture and engineering - in 1912.

The University has been growing ever since.

W. K. F. Yap

In 1912 the founding campus was renamed the College of Hawai‘i and moved to its present location in O‘ahu's Manoa Valley. Pig farms and kiawe groves are cleared for construction of the first permanent building, Hawai‘i Hall. Six years later, William Kwai Fong Yap petitioned the legislature for university status, and the campus became the University of Hawai‘i in 1920.

Wist Hall

In 1931 UH absorbed the Territorial Normal and Training School (now the College of Education) and graduated its first PhD candidate, J. S. Phillips, whose dissertation addressed control of ants in pineapple fields. Four years later, Professor Gregg Sinclair founded the Oriental Institute, fore-runner of the federally sponsored East-West Center, setting the agenda for the University of Hawai‘i's ever growing prominence in Asia-Pacific expertise.

WWII Bomb Shelter

War interrupted, and classes were suspended for two months after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. UH students of Japanese ancestry formed the Varsity Victory Volunteers to assist with civil defense; many later become part of the famous 100th Infantry Battalion.

UH Hilo Branch

Growth resumed in the 1950s. After three years of offering UH Extension Division courses at the old Hilo Boarding School, the University of Hawai‘i, Hilo Branch, was approved. In Manoa, Earle Ernst staged the first kabuki production, founding an Asian theater academic program that has grown and is now world renown.

War Protest

The UH Community Colleges system was established in 1964, with Honolulu, Kapi‘olani, Kaua‘i and Maui campuses. It evolved into seven campuses on four islands. Two years later, the founding campus, now called UH Manoa, established a School of Travel Industry Management and the forerunner programs of the School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies. The John A. Burns School of Medicine opened in 1967 and construction began on the first telescope atop Mauna Kea volcano in 1968. Leeward Community College was established that year, and Hawai‘i Community College joined the system in 1969.

D. Thompson

The 1970s saw the addition of Windward Community College, the William S. Richardson School of Law, UH Hilo College of Agriculture and University of Hawai‘i - West O‘ahu. The next decade added the School of Architecture and School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology. In athletics, Manoa appoints its first full-time director for women's sports, Donnis Thompson, and builds Rainbow (now Les Murakami) Stadium.

Stan Sheriff Center

University Park of Science and Technology Phase I opened under the management of UH Hilo during the 1990s, and Manoa added an award-winning 10,000-seat, $32 million Special Events Arena later named for Athletic Director Stan Sheriff, who fought tirelessly for the project. A record setting private gift by Ed Pauley purchased Coconut Island - known to millions of television viewers as Gilligan's Island - for expanded marine biology research. The university set set records by offering the nation's first master's degree in an indigenous language, Hawaiian, and becoming the first institution to successfully clone multiple mammalian generations, starting with the mouse, Cumulina.

Hawaiian Language College
Kilomoana

In 2000 Hawai‘i voters overwhelmingly supported constitutional autonomy for the University of Hawai‘i, ensuring the institution more control in the management of its resources. Honolulu Community College was selected to be one of only six Cisco Training Academies in the country to offer certified network professional training and Maui Community College continued a tradition of state-wide outreach by opening the Moloka‘i Education Center. Additional highlights include winning the contract to manage the Maui Supercomputing Center for the Air Force Research Laboratory and operate the Navy's new, high-tech, twin-hull R/V Kilo Moana. Long awaited renovations expand and improve facilities at Windward and Maui Community Colleges and UH Hilo. In 2003, walls were raised for a new medical school and biomedical research facility in Kaka‘ako on O‘ahu as the university looks ahead to its 2007 centennial.

Centennial Graphic

The University of Hawai‘i celebrated 100 years of higher education during 2007 and 2008, with events that honored the past and celebrated the present and future. Since its founding, more than a million students have taken UH courses for credit.