Farewell to Thee
Farewell to Thee
Sweet fragrance dwelling in the dark forest.
One fond embrace,
Before I now leave,
Until we meet again.

- Queen Lili'uokalani

1875 - 1947

All who were privileged to know him call him one of the greatest persons to live in Hawaii. He was one of the principal founders and nurturing forces of the University of Hawaii, and as such is regarded as "the father of the University." More than any other resident, he is credited with preventing the mass evacuation of Japanese from Hawaii after Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

- Ted Tsukiyama

Charles Reed Hemenway was born in Vermont in 1875 and died in Hawaii in 1947. His father was born in Siam of missionary parents. He graduated from Yale in 1897 and studied law in New York before going to Honolulu in 1899 to teach mathematics and mechanical drawing at Punahou School. In 1907 he was appointed Attorney General of the Territory of Hawaii and later joined the prestigious firm of Alexander & Baldwin as general counsel. In 1938 he resigned from Alexander & Baldwin to become full-time president of Hawaii Trust Company. He was elected president of the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce in 1940 and was instrumental in the development of Queen's Hospital during his nine year term as its president beginning in 1936.

In 1907 Charles Hemenway helped draft the Act of Establishment that founded the College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in Hawaii, which later became the University of Hawaii. From 1910 through 1940 he served on the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii, guiding the Board as Chairman during the University's formative years and through the Depression. He was described as "a friend of generations of college students, to whom the lowliest might turn for assistance and the highest for wise guidance." Upon his retirement from the Board of Regents, Hemenway Hall was dedicated in his name with the following words: "It is seldom the good fortune of any university to have such strong and wise leadership over so long a period of time as this University has had from Charles R. Hemenway."

"Charles Hemenway was highly regarded by associates, friends and especially UH students. Having tragically lost his only child in earlier years, Hemenway treated all of Hawaii's youth whom he met as his own surrogate children. The Hemenway home was always open to young people of immigrant races and he helped to finance many of them through UH. He sensed their yearning and aspiration for the American Way and made every effort to help them succeed in their dreams and goals. It was this undying commitment to students that earned him the nickname " The Father of the University."

-the spring 1989 issue of "Manoa" commemorating Hemenway Hall's 50th anniversary

During the 1930's, members of the University football team were prime beneficiaries of Hemenway's deep interest in the University and its programs. Tommy Kaulukukui, trustee named in Hemenway's Will and Chairman of the Hemenway Scholarship Committee, started his brilliant athletic career at the University in 1934. He lived in the football dorm which was bought and furnished by Hemenway. Tommy found that his tuition had been paid by Hemenway along with that of other football players who could not have otherwise attended school. Joe Kaulukukui recalled: "Papa Hemenway, as he was known to 'his boys', has a special place in my heart. His Aloha for the Islands and people made it possible for many of us to attend the University, who would otherwise not have had the opportunity."

Charles Hemenway was a man of principle, fairness, and tolerance. In 1917, during World War I, anti-German hysteria and animosity swept the college campus. Professor Maria Heuer, a German citizen, was terminated from the faculty for not taking a loyalty oath and renouncing her German citizenship. Hemenway opposed this policy arguing (to no avail) that in the absence of proof of disloyal or subversive activities, mere foreign citizenship should not be a criterion for barring a faculty member from teaching.

Beatrice Krauss wrote of the incident: "And here, in contrast to the whole business world and the public who were against her, was Hemenway with his sense of fairness. Maybe he didn't like [Germans]… but that wasn't what was at issue; it was the principle of the thing. And I think this shows up throughout his business and social career; his sense of fairness. Here was a woman he felt was being persecuted and I think that in a way, he may have admired her independence, that she wouldn't bow to gaining or retaining a position by bending to popular opinion."


As we go to meet the foe.
As we did the Alamo.
We will always remember
How they died for liberty.
And go on to victory!
- Don Reid and Sammy Kaye

After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii's military governor General Delos Emmons and FBI Director Robert Shivers sought out Charles Hemenway's advice and counsel on the crisis. Although President Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Knox pleaded and demanded that mass evacuations of Japanese from Hawaii be undertaken, General Emmons never complied.

Ted Tsukiyama wrote: "In February 1942, when several hundred University ROTC cadets were discharged from the Hawaii Territorial Guard because of their Japanese ancestry and immediately petitioned General Emmons to be allowed to serve as a non-combat labor battalion, Charles Hemenway publicly endorsed and supported this demonstration of Nisei loyalty. The military governor's acceptance of the petition led to the organization of the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV). Hemenway stood on the steps of Hawaii Hall on February 25, 1942, to send the VVV boys off to service; then eleven months later, in January 1943, when the VVV disbanded to volunteer for the 442nd and Military Intelligence Service, he extended this congratulatory message to his VVV boys."

His remarks were these: "You have carried on through your first year with the same spirit of loyalty which was the basis for your offer to serve in whatever way the Commanding General could use your help. You have held fast to your ideals. You have made an outstanding record and have won the respect and admiration of many who were doubtful of the stand which you citizens of Japanese ancestry would take. You have fully justified the confidence of those of us who knew that you are as loyal as any other citizens of different racial descents. I am proud of what you have done."

- Charles Hemenway

When the last dictator is vanquished
And the guns are quiet and still,
And victory rides on our banners,
And justice and tolerance rule,
You may rest
And you'll surely have earned it
For the work you've so cheerfully done;
But your country'll again call you to service
In the peace which we hope will come soon.
For the help of all men will be needed;
All lovers of freedom must share
In building the world of the future
Where peace and goodwill shall endure.
A world where all men shall be equal
Tho' they come from the East or the West.
Where race lines shall not foil endeavor,
And character shall be the test.
Where friendliness, honor and kindness
Shall guide in the lives of us all.
Such a world is worth all the struggle,
The heartbreaks, the sorrow and toil.
For liberty's not given for nothing --
Liberty has to be won.
Poem to the VVV boys by Charles Hemenway

Later in 1942, Charles Hemenway wrote a letter to his VVV boys thanking and encouraging them for their loyal service to the country saying: "… from reports I have had the VVV's have continued to make a fine record and deep impression on the rest of the community and are making a real contribution to our war effort. More and more of our fellow citizens are beginning to understand that your loyalty to our country is just as real as theirs and are also beginning to see that it is given under conditions which are definitely hard and unfair. You are fighting for an ideal and that is worth all the personal sacrifices which you are making. This war can only be won by those who are fighting for liberty and justice to all - and all means everyone of every race. The old notions of superior and inferior races has been proved wrong and must be discarded in the thinking of all of us. No individual and no race has any monopoly of those traits of character which in combination make good citizens. Understanding, tolerance, integrity, justice and friendliness always win in the end, as they always have and will again. You men are in my thoughts every day and you probably do not realize how deeply I appreciate the daily proof you are giving that my confidence in you has been more than justified."

Of the many youthful lives he touched and positively affected, none was more powerfully uplifted and motivated by Hemenway than the offspring of Chinese and Japanese immigrants from the plantations and urban ghettos of Hawaii. Their dreams of acceptability as Americans and "making it in America" were encouraged and validated by this solid bulwark of Americanism.

- Ted Tsukiyama

Ralph Yempuku, embittered by his discharge from the Hawaii Territorial Guard because of his ancestry wrote of Hemenway's advice: "He listened to my story and told me that he didn't blame me if I sat back and finished the war at the University but that it would make him proud to see me join the VVV and that he thought I should consider the future and go ahead and present my other cheek, so to speak. I took his advice and have never regretted it."

In 1947, following Charles Hemenway's death, the Hawaii Herald printed the following editorial eulogy:

In the dark and tragic days at the beginning of the war, at a time when the West Coast was succumbing to racial hysteria and engaging in the sad experiment of 'relocation', there was a distinct danger that Hawaii, too, might succumb to the same disease. Many community leaders were openly - and we suppose, honestly - doubtful of the loyalty of residents of Japanese extraction. A larger group, who had worked harmoniously with their Oriental friends before the war, were hesitant about 'sticking their neck out' and maintained a wait-and-see policy. For a while things hung in delicate balance.

But Charles Hemenway wasn't afraid to 'stick his neck out.' He knew, out of his long, extensive, and intimate acquaintance with 'his boys' at the University, that these boys were as loyal Americans as could be found anywhere in the nation. And he did not hesitate to say so. His influential position in the community, his wide and varied contacts, his unquestioned integrity, his logical reasoning, and his cool-headed conviction carried weight in critical quarters. His unflagging zeal and clear-headed advice helped immeasurably in setting up the Morale Committees which were so helpful in bringing adjustment and understanding to a community torn by doubts and apprehensions…

Hawaii might have gone down the sorry road of undemocratic discrimination, as California did. We were at the cross-roads in that terrible December and it was largely due to Mr. Hemenway's courage and influence that Hawaii took the right turn instead of the wrong one… The entire community, and the nation, owe him a debt of gratitude for his part in persuading us that we were justified in trying out the democratic ideals we had professed.

Excerpts taken from: Charles Reed Hemenway, 1875-1947 by Ted Tsukiyama

Charles Hemenway (center)
presiding over the Board of Queens Medical Center

Play: Koke'e

The Bible translation of Rev. Asa Hemenway (grandfather of Charles Hemenway)
into the Thai language.