John A. Burns Foundation legacy of giving continues

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Jul 17, 2008

"John Burns never forgot that hope lies eternal in a man‘s heart; that it is only this hope in the frame of the human spirit that gives us strength to strive for a better today and a better tomorrow for our children and for our children‘s children; that ultimately, we are one people, we are one State."
-Robert Oshiro, Founder John A. Burns Foundation
The partnership between Robert Oshiro and Hawaiʻi Governor John A. Burns was legendary. Together, they framed the future of Hawaiʻi.

Robert Oshiro, who founded the John A. Burns Foundation in 1974 and served as its president, passed away last February. Elected to the state House in 1959, the year Hawaiʻi became a state, Bob went on to become a stalwart in the state Democratic party, serving as Chairman from 1962 to 1968 and managing six winning gubernatorial bids by Burns, George Ariyoshi and John Waihee. "Governor Burns and my husband always envisioned education as the great equalizer, the way to improve yourself in so many ways," said Ruth Oshiro. "They dreamed of a medical school and law school for Hawaiʻi when none existed.

By just about anyone‘s definition, three-term Hawaiʻi governor John A. Burns was a man of vision. Elected to his first term in 1962 just three years after Hawaiʻi became a state, Burns saw the University of Hawaiʻi as an institution that would help to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of the people of Hawaiʻi. He championed educational opportunities for people of Japanese ancestry, favored attracting mainland and foreign students and advocated a broad educational system. His political biographer explained the governor as having "a visionary utopian strain which saw Hawaiʻi as an education for all America."

During the Burns administrations and with his continuing support, UH Mānoa experienced unprecedented growth, the medical and law schools were established and construction began on the observatories atop Mauna Kea. In addition, Burns advocated four-year campuses at Hilo and West Oʻahu and presided over the establishment of the UH system of community colleges.

In keeping with their long history of providing critical support for education, officials from the John A. Burns Foundation recently announced a gift of $1.7 million to establish an endowed scholarship fund for first year medical students at the University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine. The awards will be made to top-ranked candidates admitted to the medical school. The majority of the funding will be utilized to establish an endowed scholarship in perpetuity with the remainder to be used for immediate awards.

"It is very meaningful for us to have this support," said Jerris Hedges, Dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine. "Students with strong grades and strong scores are being actively recruited by schools on the mainland. The opportunity to offer them scholarship support and show a commitment from our school gives us a much greater chance of retaining them here in our student body."

"The John A. Burns Foundation was formed to carry out the dreams and aspirations embodied in the ʻBurns Philosophy,‘" said Burns Foundation executive Shirley Kimoto. "This gift to the John A. Burns School of Medicine carries out Mr. Oshiro‘s final wishes for the Foundation as well as the medical school."