Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine September-October 2014 - September-October 2014
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Island Portrait: Visionary

For thirty years, Dr. Clyde Sakamoto has been moving Maui’s college forward—in many directions at once.

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Walking into Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto’s office at UH–Maui College is a little like walking into the Congressional Archives and Tomorrowland, merged. Burgeoning bookshelves, memorabilia and the desk of a very engaged administrator fill the small room. At a conference table too large for the space, but not nearly large enough for the piles of folders, stacks of books, models of buildings, and countless papers it holds, UH-Maui staff and stakeholders are still engaged in lively discussion as they gather their laptops and notes in closing (but not ending) their meeting.

As the congenial group departs, Dr. Sakamoto invites me in and offers me a seat. “This won’t take long, right?” Clyde Sakamoto is never at a loss for words—unless of course, the subject is Clyde Sakamoto.

This is my second attempt to interview Clyde, and already he is up to the same tricks—directing attention away from himself. “This part of the table is what we are working on now, but this part,” he gestures at the lion’s share of material, “is what’s important going forward.” His smile broadens. Going forward is what Clyde does best.

To understand just how far forward he has brought UH–Maui College, it helps to look back at what it was: a small community college in the middle of a rural neighbor island with few educational resources. Beyond its physical campus in Kahului, Maui Community College also served students in Hana, at the end of a long and serpentine highway, and on Molokai and Lanai, separated by ocean channels. There was no Internet. And to add to that challenge, Maui County residents who wanted to pursue a higher degree had to fly off to Oahu or the Big Island, often leaving jobs, spouses and children behind.