On a chilly February evening in Washington, D.C., a group of about 50 people — donning lei and armed with pupu — gathered for a pau hana party with a purpose.
At first appearances, the turnout might have been described as eclectic: Some young up-and-comers, some mid-career professionals and some retirees.
But it wouldn’t take an observer very long to figure out their common source of pride: Drinks in hand, attendees sported Silversword athletics gear or waved pennants.
The Alumni Meet-up in DC is among a number of gatherings Chaminade organizes each year in Hawaii and on the mainland as a way of keeping grads connected — to one another and to the university.
The DC event on Feb. 2 attracted alumni from the immediate area and from as far away as New Mexico, Delaware and upstate New York. And it gave attendees a chance not only to catch up with each other — but with the latest plans for their Honolulu alma mater.
Dr. Lynn Babington attended the alumni meet-up to outline her vision as Chaminade’s president and to hear from alumni about their hopes for the university. And at the end of the night, several attendees made gifts or donations to Chaminade to support programming.
Those donors included Dr. Christine Carter, who received her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Chaminade in 1973 before getting a doctoral degree in genetics from the University of Hawaii.
At the meet-up, Carter pledged to help support a teaching fellowship named after retired Chaminade Professor Ron Iwamoto, who she credits with sparking her passion in biology, genetics and physiology.
“When I was in BIO 101 and listening to Mr. Iwamoto tell us what we were going to cover and the field trips we were all expected to go on, I changed my major that day from pre-nursing to biology,” Carter said, in an email.
Carter added that her experience at Chaminade was defined by excellence in teaching — by professors who serve as mentors, educational guides and, sometimes, even cheerleaders, encouraging students forward.
“The quality of the education has more to do with the teachers that you find yourself listening to than with the size, status or ranking of the school itself,” she said.
Chaminade professors, she said, gave her and her classmates “the confidence to explore beyond what we learned, to visualize ourselves getting the highest degree possible in a field or topic that we alone knew best.”
The DC meet-up was organized by Be-Jay Kodama, director of alumni relations at Chaminade and a graduate of the university, too. She received her bachelor’s from the university in 1986, and completed her master’s in business administration from Chaminade in 2016.
Kodama said despite the frigid temps outside, the atmosphere at the event was warm — full of aloha and, of course, lots of Chaminade pride.
And there were plenty of Hawaii touches: The tables were adorned in tropical flowers, some of which were plucked by attendees to put behind their ears, and mac nuts were wrapped up in blue for guests to take home.
Kodama said that alumni gatherings — like the DC meet-up and this April’s reunion on campus — are about making sure alumni remain connected to a campus and a community that considers them part of the family.
The meet-ups are also a chance for graduates — regardless of when they attended — to meet current students and serve as examples of how far a Chaminade education can take you, Kodama said.
“Alumni want to be kept informed,” she said, in an email, “and these events are a wonderful platform for the university to share updates in a more personal way. Chaminade is a common experience they share.”
All alumni are invited back to campus for the 2018 Alumni Reunion, April 5-8. The unique selection of events will make the return to Chaminade unforgettable. It’s a time to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.