Preparing for retirement, UH president reflects on what he accomplished — and what’s left to do

University of Hawaii President David Lassner has a long “to do” list before he retires at the end of next year.
Published: Oct. 17, 2023 at 4:09 PM HST|Updated: 1 hour ago
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University of Hawaii President David Lassner has a long “to do” list before he retires at the end of next year.

Lassner says he needs to fill vacant positions, advance the strategic plan and continue to improve education along with work force needs of the state.

He’s preparing to retire as UH’s enrollment and donations are up.

And during his tenure, he’s weathered his fair share of controversies.

Most recently, Lassner visited the burn zone in Lahaina and says 400 UH students were impacted by the fire. Five faculty lost their homes.

The university is offering full scholarships to Lahainaluna High seniors.

They face ‘unimaginable challenges’ but a new reason for hope: Full UH scholarships for a year

“The first question I was asked was is there a catch? No. We are trying to push that from a one-year commitment to a two- or four-year commitment,” Lassner told Hawaii News Now.

Earlier this year, three key state senators appeared to call for his resignation, but then said their views were distorted. The story highlighted years of conflict.

“I would say I have been in hearings that I think bullying is a fair characterization, whether of me or of other UH people,” said Lassner.

“The damage that they inflict or tried to inflict hurts everybody in the state,” he added.

Lassner says dealing with the COVID pandemic and the Thirty Meter Telescope protests at Mauna Kea in 2019 were especially difficult. Today, an authority manages Mauna Kea and not UH.

Lassner says he can’t say if the TMT will ever be built.

“I feel like we had a plan that was appropriate for Hawaii. I don’t know what a new plan would look like,” said Lassner.

But after about decade as president, he says UH is a better institution that took a mix of vision, leadership and management.

“I think the history of what we’ve done at the University over these past years makes it clear that we’re are much better institution than we were 10 years ago,” said Lassner.

Lassner started at UH in the 1970s and he isn’t completely leaving as he’ll work on special project as president emeritus.