Jan Seymour ‘76 is proud of the endowed scholarship she helped establish at Chaminade University.
Yet she is quick to deflect any suggestion that she is worthy of praise or high esteem.
“I’m not noble,” Seymour said, while chatting with Chaminade Magazine. “Don’t make me sound like a saint.” The scholarship, she said, is about putting her dollars to work for a better future—and that’s in everyone’s interest. “I wanted my money to go to something that was beneficial,” Seymour said.
“I want my money to create the greatest impact.”
She also wanted to help students who don’t always qualify for aid.
That’s why the Fumiko Kanazawa Endowed Scholarship, named after Seymour’s aunt, is open to students with a grade-point-average of 2.5 and above. “It’s for the B- or C-average students who probably need a little more help,” she said, adding that’s the category she fell into as an undergraduate.
Preference for the scholarship is also given to those who are of mixed Japanese descent.
“That’s because of me, too. I’m hapa,” she said.
Several of Seymour’s relatives have also contributed to the endowment fund. In addition to the scholarship, which was established in 2011, both Seymour and her mother have made estate planned giving pledges to Chaminade. For Seymour, it was an easy decision to make.
“The scholarship is essentially me. It’s about establishing an identity of oneself,” she said.
Seymour grew up in Southern California, and said she always wanted to come to the islands. She remembers pestering her mother relentlessly about it. And so after Seymour finished two years at a small Catholic university in Los Angeles, her mother suggested she go to Hawaii to attend Chaminade University.
“She said go to Hawaii and get it out of your system,” Seymour said.
She did but Hawaii always remains in her heart.
One of the first things Seymour noticed in Hawaii was the diversity. “Being in Hawaii and being at Chaminade, that was the first time it felt like I was really home,” she said. “Being half-Japanese, even in California, I still dealt with prejudice. But in Hawaii, I didn’t see that.
Nobody gave you a second look.”
She added, “It was nothing but people who looked like me.”
That’s another reason the scholarship gives preference to those of mixed Japanese descent. Seymour said she wanted to celebrate what she saw in Hawaii—a melting pot of people, from different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds, who collectively embrace inclusivity and acceptance.
At Chaminade, Seymour lived in the residence halls and majored in International Studies.
Almost immediately, she struck up lasting friendships.
“There was a group of four of us. We were all the same age, but because of our different paths, we were all in different years. I still have precious memories of our time together,” she said, adding that one member of the group sadly passed away in the 1990s. “These were lifelong friendships.”
After graduating from Chaminade, Seymour went to graduate school in Arizona and pursued a successful career in banking. Eventually, her work included installing operating systems at credit unions around the country. Seymour said that she established the endowed scholarship at a time when she was incredibly busy with her career. “I was traveling so much I was visiting my house,” she quipped.
While now retired, Seymour said her calendar is still very full.
She makes time to visit Chaminade regularly to support the mission—and meet some of the students her family’s endowed scholarship has helped. Because of the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to make it to campus since 2019, but she’s looking forward to returning soon.
“I know this scholarship helps, especially those students who may not get help from elsewhere,” Seymour said. The minimum GPA requirement, she added, acknowledges that some students are juggling multiple obligations. “Holding down two jobs and trying to study, tell me when you’re going to have time to be an A-student,” she said. “This is about supporting education and opportunities.”
That is something Seymour thinks her aunt Fumiko Kanazawa, the scholarship’s namesake, would appreciate. Kanazawa was a high school history teacher in Los Angeles for many years. “This scholarship is just me. Not selfless, but just me,” she said. “It’s a commitment to help the future. That’s all.”