The University of Hawai`i Alumni Association (UHAA) has named its 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards honorees, and two of the honorees have a close association with the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). Dr. J. Kuhio Asam, a psychiatrist, is an accomplished graduate of JABSOM. Emme Tomingbang, a journalist, is married to the Honorable James Burns, son of former Governor John A. Burns. Judge Burns also has served as the former President of the Friends of the Medical School. Governor John Burns was so instrumental in the founding of a medical school in Hawai`i in 1965, that the school was named in his honor.
A dinner will be held to honor this year’s UH Distinguished Alumni recipients on Wednesday, May 7, at the Sheraton Waikīkī Hotel. Proceeds from this event benefit UHAA, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Read about the newest honorees below–and at the end of the story–see if you can guess which seven people with JABSOM ties currently hold a UH Distinguished Alumni medal.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are:
J. Kuhio Asam, M.D. (M.D. ’78 JABSOM) and Claire L. Asam, Ph.D. (M.Ed. ’78, Ph.D. ’99 Mānoa) have devoted a significant portion of their lives to serving the Hawaii community in many ways. As executive director of the King William Charles Lunalilo Trust and Home, Dr. J. Kuhio Asam brings a lifelong commitment to build and strengthen the community. He has accepted the responsibility to carry out the will of King Lunalilo, as applied to contemporary times, to transform Lunalilo Home and expand it to become the foremost system of elder services in support of Hawaiian kupuna, families, and communities. His professional career has included executive positions with Kahi Mohala Hospital and APS Healthcare in Hawai`i. As a civic and community leader, Asam currently serves on the boards of the University of Hawai`i Foundation, Hanahauoli School and Sutter Pacific Health, and is a member of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, Prince Kuhio Hawaiian Civic Club, and Ahahui o na Kauka. He was a volunteer docent at the Bishop Museum and public mediator with the Mediation Center of the Pacific. He has served on numerous boards, including those of St. Timothy’s Preschool and Mental Health America of Hawai`i, as well as the advisory boards of the Boy and Girls Club of Hawai`i, Hawai`i KIDS COUNT, Ke Ali`i Pauahi Foundation, AlohaCare, Hawai`i State Co-occurring State Infrastructure Grant, and the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawai`i. He is past board chair of the UH Foundation, and has been a State Senate-appointed member of the State Council on Mental Health.
Appointed as trustee of the Queen Lili`uokalani Trust in 2007, Dr. Claire L. Asam brings an enduring, lifelong, professional and personal commitment to “na pua o Hawai`i nei,” or the children of Hawai`i. Previously, she carried out the Queen’s mission in the capacity of president and executive director of the Queen Lili`uokalani Children’s Center (QLCC). She provided leadership and was responsible for the strategic planning and operations of the agency which annually impacted 40,000 children in its efforts to build strong families and productive, healthy communities. Her professional career began at the Kamehameha Schools where she served the beneficiaries of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop estate for 25 years in teaching and administrative positions. Always a tireless contributor, she began work at the tender age of five years old polishing shoes for her family and earning money by plucking chicken feathers, among other jobs. Asam is also currently vice president and executive director of SchoolRise, Hawai`i Division. SchoolRise LLC is a school improvement company providing educational services to public and private schools. She serves on the boards of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and Hawai`i Medical Service Association (HMSA), and on the advisory council for the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa.
Emme Tomimbang (A.A. ’71 Leeward , B.Ed. ’73 Mānoa) is President of EMME, Inc. and is one of Hawai`i’s most recognized broadcasters with more than 36 years of experience in radio and television. A proud Farrington High School graduate, she obtained her associate’s degree at Leeward Community College and later earned her bachelor’s degree at UH Manoa. Tomimbang began her broadcasting career at KISA radio, and moved on to television at KITV 4 as a news reporter and news anchor. She then joined KHON 2 and began delivering her “Island Style” features and anchoring the morning news. Segments of Tomimbang’s highly popular one-hour television series, “Emme’s Island Moments,” feature island people and aspects of island life and can be seen on in-flight programming on Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines. Her other works have included “Emme’s Island Living,” which covered topics from diabetes and high blood pressure to dyslexia and interior design, the weekly series “Emme and Friends,” and an “Island to Island Moments” concert series. EMME, Inc. celebrated its 15th anniversary by featuring the documentary of Governor John A. Burns on DVD, and a special on The Queen’s Medical Center’s 150th anniversary. Her one-hour special, “Kailila`au’s Canoe: A Journey of Spirit,” earned Telly Award honors for documenting the works of employees of Ka`anapali Beach Hotel and a Maui boy whose wish before he passed was to have a canoe built. Tomimbang was appointed by the Hawai`i Filipino Centennial Commission to produce a two-hour documentary on the Hawaii Filipino Centennial. “Mabuhay with Aloha: The Hawai`i Filipino Experience, 1906-2006” played at the Louis Vuitton Hawai`i International Film Festival and on PBS, as well as at numerous screenings throughout the state and in the Philippines. It was also part of a teacher workshop series sponsored by the Smithsonian. Tomimbang was named Hawai`i Filipino Woman of the Year in 2003, and in 2006 was awarded the Pamana Ng Pilipina Award from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. In 2013, she was inducted into the Hawaii Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame, and also received the Filipino Community Center’s Community Service Award for her contributions to the Filipino community and community-at-large.
Rick Blangiardi (M.Ed. ’73 Mānoa) is general manager of Hawai`i Now (KGMB and KHNL) and has been an executive in the television industry for more than 37 years. He began his broadcast career as an account executive at KGMB9 and ascended through the ranks to take over the reins of then-defunct KIKU. He rebranded it as KHNL and, within six years, KHNL became known as the “National Champ of Local Sports Broadcasting,” with its innovative and extensive contract to televise more than 100 University of Hawaii sporting events annually. Blangiardi has held senior executive positions in Seattle (VP & GM, KING 5 TV), New York (VP, CBS TV), San Francisco (VP & GM, KPIX 5 TV), and Sacramento (group president). Prior to returning to Hawaii, Blangiardi served as president of Telemundo Holdings, Inc., the nation’s second largest Spanish-language network. He was responsible for the operations and turnaround of Telemundo’s 11 owned and operated stations in major U.S. markets and Puerto Rico. He led the sale of Telemundo in 2001 to NBC for $2.7 billion, the largest sale in NBC’s history. After returning to Hawai`i, Blangiardi became senior vice president and general manager of both KHON2 and KGMB9. In 2009 he was named general manager of the newly created Hawai`i News Now—KGMB (CBS) and KHNL (NBC). The Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI), Honolulu Chapter, recognized Blangiardi with its prestigious “2010 Salesperson of the Year” award in 2011. In addition to his vast TV background, Blangiardi is known by many for his role as former Rainbow Warrior defensive coordinator/associate head football coach, and later as president of Na Koa Football Club and director of Ahahui Koa Anuenue.
The UH Founders Alumni Association began the tradition of recognizing outstanding University of Hawai`i alumni. The Founders continue honoring alumni who have made a significant impact throughout their lives with the UH Founders Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s recipient is Governor John Waihee III, J.D. (J.D. ’76 Mānoa), who served Hawai`i as its fourth elected governor from 1986 to 1994. A keiki o ka aina from Hamakua on Hawai`i Island, he is a child of the sixties with an indomitable sense of hope, a charismatic and self-aware leader who brings out the best in people, and a man who works tirelessly for the island home he loves. As the first Native Hawaiian governor, he advanced with passion the unique causes of Native Hawaiians comprehensively and in the context of being for the good of all. He oversaw the return of Kaho`olawe, the settling of overdue claims, the creation of the first language immersion programs and schools, and an apology from President Bill Clinton and the federal government for the illegal overthrow of Hawaii. In each effort, he built allies who together moved forward, as he does today leading Kanaiolowalu, the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, in its journey. Governor Waihee was a member of the first graduating class of the William S. Richardson School of Law in 1976. He worked closely with the University president, who served on his cabinet. Through his vision, the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), School of Architecture, Queen Liliuokalani Center for Student Services, and Stan Sheriff Center were developed, and the commitment for land to build the University of Hawai`i–West O`ahu was made. One of his closest friends, President Clinton, summed it up by saying, “John gives us a model of what an aggressive, active democratic leader ought to be.”
For more information about the Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner or UHAA, contact the Alumni Relations office at (808) 956-2586, toll-free 1‑877-842-5867 or contact@UHalumni.org, or visit UH ALUMNI DAA. For a list of all previous honorees, visit PAST HONOREES . Who are JABSOM’s current alumni medal holders? Gov. John A. Burns; Dr. Satoru Izutsu, Vice Dean Emeritus; Dr. Patricia Blanchette, Founding Geriatric Medicine Chair and COO of UH Cancer Center; Dr. Chiyome Fukino, former Director of Health; Dr. Virginia Hinshaw, Emeritus Chancellor and Professor; Dr. Gary Okamoto, Associate Clinical Professor; and Hawai`i journalist and UH MED Communications Director Tina Shelton.