University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents approves honorary degrees for UH Mānoa Professor Albert Wendt and Agnes Kalanihookaha Cope

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Carolyn Tanaka, (808) 956-8109
External Affairs & University Relations
Diane Chang, (808) 956-0391
UH Mānoa Chancellor's Office
Posted: Apr 16, 2009

KAPOLEI, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi — The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents (BOR) approved the nominations of UH Mānoa Professor Albert Wendt and Mrs. Agnes Kalanihookaha Cope for honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees at its monthly meeting today. The degrees will be awarded at the UH Mānoa Spring 2009 commencement ceremony.

Professor Wendt is a recognized educator, novelist and poet of the Pacific. The preeminent contemporary writer has gained international honor for his writing, and passionate advocacy of literature and art of the people of the Pacific.

His contributions to Pacific literature and art include several novels, short stories, poetry, a play and published anthologies. Two novels, Sons for the Return Home (1973) and Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree (1974), resulted in feature films that were shown internationally. He has edited numerous Pacific literature magazines and works by other Pacific writers. His play, The Songmaker‘s Chair, was produced in Auckland and Wellington (2003, 2004), and staged at Kumu Kahua Theatre and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (2006).

Professor Wendt is the recipient of several awards, including the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Award, considered New Zealand‘s major book prize, for his novel, Leaves of the Banyan Tree (1980), and the South East Asia and Pacific Commonwealth Book Prize for his novel, Ola (1991). He was recognized with a State of Hawaii Senate Certificate in 1992 for being the leading Pacific Island Writer, and as the Citizens‘ Chair of English from 2004-08 for his scholarly and creative accomplishments on the Mānoa campus. In December 2006, he was invited to be UH Mānoa‘s commencement speaker.

"The passionate fire behind Professor Wendt‘s work, accomplishments and contributions to the literary world has been fueled by his extensive literary knowledge of the Pacific," said Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw.

Mrs. Cope, or Auntie Aggie as she is fondly known, is a beloved educator, kumu hula, advocate for Native Hawaiians and a Living Treasure of Hawaiʻi. She attended Farrington High School and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and began her teaching profession as an English teacher at Waianae High School. She later instructed at Waianae and Nanaikapono elementary schools.

In 1967, Mrs. Cope founded the Waianae Coast Culture and Arts Society, whose mission is to practice, preserve and perpetuate ethnic cultures in the islands, particularly the Hawaiian culture. She has also tirelessly advocated for better heath care and an improved health-care system for Native Hawaiians. She helped to found the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center on the Leeward Coast, and was active in organizations such as the Papa Ola Lokahi Program and Ke Ola Mamo Native Hawaiian Health Care System.

Auntie Aggie is a respected and admired kumu hula, researcher and writer, and guardian of the culture and the arts. The perpetuation of her work has been captured in the Agnes Cope Community and Cultural Health Award, which is issued by the Brown and Bakken World Health awards program for the purposes of bringing the community together and working collaboratively to improve world health.

Said Chancellor Hinshaw, "Spanning four decades, Mrs. Cope‘s personal dedication and civic contributions to enhancing the health and education of Native Hawaiians and preserving their culture have improved the lives of all citizens of Hawaiʻi."