$9.2 million donated to University of Hawaii

Published On: Dec 26 2012 06:21:20 PM HST   Updated On: Dec 27 2012 07:15:45 AM HST

An anonymous donor makes a $9.2 million donation to the University of Hawaii, one of the largest individual gifts ever given.

New students will be helped by the generous contribution and so will the school's standing as a top research university.

At UH’s Lyon Arboretum, the lush landscape, fragrant flowers and towering trees are reminders of Hawaii’s natural history.

"This represents real Hawaii to me, the way it used to be before all the explorers came here and disturbed the natural beauty," said Antone Salel, a visitor from California.

Ninety percent of the island's native species are not found anywhere else in the world, but Hawaii's unique plants are also some of the most endangered. Three-hundred-fifty species are currently threatened with extinction.  So, arboretum volunteers and staff spend their days growing more of the precious plants.

Now, with the large donation, they will get more than just seed money for much needed future research.

Part of the gift will toward a new and bigger lab.  It will store and safeguard rare and even extinct species, that could one day be used to restore native plant populations.

"It’s amazing when people give back," said University of Hawaii Foundation President Donna Vuchinich.

And more residents are giving back.  The University of Hawaii has seen an increase in donations now because of possible fiscal changes coming up in the new year.

"All sizes of donations are making an impact in adding great value to the expertise and opportunities for students and facility at UH," said Vuchinich.

Along with encouraging new growth at the Lyon Arboretum, the latest contribution will provide scholarships to Hawaii's community college students moving into a four-year university.

Things are also looking up for the Institute for Astronomy, one of four other departments receiving money to keep the University of Hawaii aiming high academically.

"The state funding and tuition funding helps maintain the overall operations, but if you want to make that next level of excellence private donations make all the difference and this one will," said UH Vice President John Morton.

Money will also go to the construction of the new Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head.

While the donor is anonymous now, his identity will be revealed after his death when the signature restaurant at the new facility will be named after him.


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