Kamehameha Schools Trustee to Address Fall Commencement at UH Hilo

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Posted: Dec 26, 2001

Retired Admiral Robert K.U. Kihune, chair of the Board of Trustees of Kamehameha Schools, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Fall Commencement ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, December 22 at 9:00 a.m. in the UH Hilo New Gym. A total of 174 students representing the College of Arts and Sciences (161), College of Agriculture, Forestry & Natural Resource Management (9), and Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language (4) are candidates for degrees and/or certificates.

Kihune, a 1955 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, attended the U.S. Naval Academy where he earned a B.S. in marine engineering in 1959. He continued his studies at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he obtained a B.S. in electrical engineering, specializing in communications in 1965. His long, distinguished naval career included several high-profile commands involving large numbers of ships and personnel. Kihune commanded the USS Kitty Hawk and USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups, involving 30 ships, 190 aircraft and 20,000 sailors, which placed him in command of naval forces in the Indian Ocean during the 1987 crisis with Iran. As commander of Pacific Fleet Naval Surface Forces, he commanded 200 surface ships, 10 naval stations, a combined military and civilian personnel force of 80,000, and a $4 billion budget. Kihune's command provided half of the naval forces in support of Operation Desert Shield, and later Operation Desert Storm.

Kihune retired from the Navy in June 1994 and shortly thereafter became active in a variety of economic development and educational initiatives. As chief executive officer of Waimana Enterprises and Sandwhich Isles Communications, he oversaw projects to develop a power plant at Kawaihae and a telecommunications company to operate on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) properties. He was also involved in development of a proposal for the cleanup and restoration of the Island of Kahoʻolawe as chair of the management board of Waimana Kaiser Enterprises.

Kihune returned to his alma mater in February 1999 when the State Probate Court appointed him and four other special purpose trustees to settle outstanding issues pertaining to the Internal Revenue Service audit that grew out of a highly publicized state investigation. In May, he was appointed as one of five interim replacements for the former trustees who were removed by the court. Kihune served as acting chair until January 2001 when he was named a permanent trustee. In his present capacity, Kihune oversees establishment of the policies, goals and objectives of Kamehameha Schools.

In addition to his duties with Kamehameha Schools, Kihune heads numerous boards, including the Board of Directors of the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaiʻi, and the USS Missouri Memorial Association, which he
serves as president and vice chair. Kihune is a past director of the Natural Energy Laboratory Board of Directors, and a current member of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Advisory Board.

Julie-Beth Kanani Dircks, a psychology major, will be the student speaker. Dircks, who was born in Los Angeles, moved to Kohala in 1968, where her parents, Henry and Judy AhSam, currently reside. She attended Kamehameha
Schools as a boarding student from 1970 until her graduation in 1976. Dircks, who carries a 3.67 GPA, is a certified substitute public school teacher. She currently works part-time at Hilo Intermediate School as a Parent Community Network Coordinator (PCNC). She spent last summer working as a resident advisor/tutor in UH Hilo's Upward Bound Program. Dircks also served as an Americorps volunteer. She plans to pursue a masters degree in counseling. The general theme of her address will be the diversity of traditional and non-traditional students that make up the graduating class. Dircks, who is married and has three children and one grandchild, will also emphasize the importance of having and being a role model. For more information, contact Haunani Bernardino at (808) 974-7705 or email haunani@hawaii.edu. For special accommodations, contact Susan Shirachi-Gonsalves at (808) 933-0816 (V) or (808) 974-7335 (TTY). Requests for special accommodations should be made at least 10 business days prior to the event.