2022 Wāhine of Hawai‘i
(Special Promotional Section) HONOLULU Magazine celebrates some of Hawai‘i’s inspiring, powerhouse trailblazers making positive changes in the community and moving Honolulu forward.
Dr. Catherine Ako ’06 is a naturopathic primary care physician dedicated to empowering her patients with the knowledge and confidence they need to reclaim their health. She is the founder of O‘ahu Natural Care Clinic and the first female naturopathic physician on O‘ahu to become credentialed as a primary care physician in the HMSA network. Dr. Ako completed her medical training at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, the oldest accredited naturopathic medical university in North America and a leader in natural medicine education and training. In addition to rotations in primary care management from both medical and naturopathic providers, she also completed specialized naturopathic rotations in gynecology, cardiovascular and pulmonary medicine. Dr. Ako believes that an expansive array of healing modalities presents an opportunity for optimizing health and treating disease. She strives to meet Hawai‘i’s health needs with a customized health management strategy using the latest scientific evidence-based therapy.
Gay Chinen didn’t always plan to be an educator. In fact, La Pietra’s dean of students studied art—first at the University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa, then at the San Francisco Art Institute—with the intention of becoming an artist full-time. Teaching she fell into by chance—working independently and for various programs before joining La Pietra in 1997 as an art teacher—but it led to a decades-long career. Now, after 24 years with the school, goodbye is bittersweet. “La Pietra is amazing at building confidence with integrity,” Chinen, who became dean of students in 2007, says. Small class sizes and a team of truly caring, fun teachers are what allow La Pietra to help foster individual confidence, kindness and a strong sense of self in. “It’s amazing to see a student who starts off very shy blossom into this confident young woman who can tackle anything.”
Rebecca Dayhuff Matsushima
When Hawaiian Electric and the state of Hawai‘i signed the Clean Energy Initiative agreement in 2008, setting a goal of 40% of electricity sales coming from renewables by 2030, it was a big move toward a better future for our state. But with great power comes great responsibility, and that’s where Rebecca Dayhuff Matsushima comes in. Dayhuff Matsushima earned her law degree from the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law and has a master’s degree in business administration from the UH Shidler College of Business. She was an associate attorney at Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel before joining Hawaiian Electric in 2017 as an associate general counsel and then serving as a senior associate general counsel and then director of renewable acquisition. As the vice president of resource procurement, Dayhuff Matsushima says, “I wake up every day excited about my job because I know that I’m making a better home for our children when I see the impact and improvement that our renewable projects have on the environment.”
Jenny Halvorson has enjoyed an exciting career so far. It began at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, where she worked as a methods process analyst on the 767 line before becoming an
operations and contracts procurement agent in the supplier management department, where she supported a variety of domestic suppliers to suppliers in Italy. It was during her five years there that she developed her leadership skills, and she was one of 12 selected to join Boeing’s Supplier Management Emerging Leaders Development Program. She joined Hawaiian Electric in 2017 as a project analyst, earning her Project Management Professional certification. In 2018, she moved up to project manager, planning and initializing projects before handing them off for execution. Over the years, Halvorson has had the opportunity to work on several renewable energy projects on O‘ahu and Maui. “I’ve been fortunate to have a very supportive leadership team at Hawaiian Electric,” she says. “It’s with their help and guidance that I’ve been able to achieve any success here.”
What started as an an internship led to a full-time stay at Hawaiian Electric for Mehana Ho‘opi‘i, supervising engineer of transmission and distribution for the state’s largest electric utility. Serving as the liaison between engineering and construction requires a team-focused attitude, nuanced instinct for navigating each industry and, most importantly, strong communication and planning skills. “Interpersonal skills are more challenging to learn than technical skills,” says the Santa Clara University graduate, who majored in biomedical engineering. “But they’re so important to have in every job.” From overseeing engineers who manage projects for overhead and underground transmission and distribution lines, to project-managing upgrades and maintenance and being part of the technical design process for Hawaiian Electric’s many projects, Ho‘opi‘i’s job is equally challenging, varied and rewarding. “I enjoy managing and being a part of the team that keeps the lights on for Hawai‘i,” she says. “Seeing a project go from plan to final product makes me appreciate it so much more.”
Victoria Hung’s mornings with her grandfather were precious. As a sixth grader, she would prepare his breakfast and the medicine needed to keep his glucose levels in check in exchange for his smile and company. Soon, she dreamed of becoming a physician. During her freshman year at La Pietra-Hawai‘i School for Girls, one of Hung’s friends suddenly became ill. Stomach pains kept him out of school and in the hospital for months. She wanted to help. La Pietra nurtured the 4.0 student’s confidence. But, just as significantly, independent projects, leadership roles in various clubs and the school’s open, discussion-based classes that encouraged all students to share their varying perspectives made her realize she wanted to find new ways to reach populations most in need. “I aspire to open a practice as a pediatric gastroenterologist who promotes accessible medical services to the multicultural children of Hawai‘i,” Hung says. “La Pietra has prepared me for my next steps.”
Kim Hutchison’s love of art has taken her from the halls of La Pietra-Hawai‘i School for Girls to galleries in Paris and Florence, Italy. Now she’s turned her passion into a fulfilling profession; helping everyone from keiki to locals to first-time visitors engage with exhibits at Honolulu Museum of Art. As a student at La Pietra, Kim’s interest was encouraged and flourished through guidance from her teachers. She graduated and pursued degrees in both English and Art History at University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa. During her undergraduate years, she studied abroad in Paris and then Florence where she interned at Museo dei Ragazzi, the children’s museum located at the famed Palazzo Vecchio. But it was while volunteering at HoMA during her last year of college that she found her artistic home. Ten years later, she oversees all aspects of the visitor experience as a true connection between art and community.
Two years ago, Kate Kane, who teaches Women’s and Gender Studies at La Pietra, had the opportunity with her colleague to revamp all the courses in the program. “One of the exciting things we did was ensure that all the classes had some connection to Hawaiian culture or history,” Kane says. This is the first time Kane has been able to bring her full spectrum of knowledge into high school teaching—something she’s thrilled about. Kane earned her Ph.D. in American studies with a minor in advanced feminist studies from the University of Minnesota and taught at the university level for eight years prior to joining La Pietra’s staff. Her teachings play a major role in how her students view themselves, engage with their world and create their futures. “I want to show how we’re trained to see the world has real impacts on what happens,” she says. “I am inspired by the ways all our students take on issues and become leaders.”
La Dayne Pascua
Martial arts is more than self-defense for many who study it. For La Dayne Pascua, kajunkenbo opened a pathway to a new future. When she was in the 6th grade, the Lawakua Kajunkenbo Club, a nonprofit focused on helping youth living in public housing projects, began sponsoring her education at La Pietra-Hawai‘i School for Girls. Since then, Pascua has soared. She has participated in the Science Olympiad, earned National Honors Society honors and tutored students. Now, in her senior year, she serves as president of the Red Cross Club and student council, and is an inspiration for many. “Whether it be students, teachers, or faculty, I try my best to nurture a sense of belonging,” Pascua says. And in college, she plans to study ways to help more kids like her achieve higher education. “There are so many opportunities in this world for students of challenged backgrounds to thrive; and I will be the one to lead them.”
What does it take to run one of Hawai‘i’s largest nonprofits? Just ask Karen Tan, LCSW, President and CEO of Child & Family Service (CFS). A fierce yet empathetic leader, her bold vision is a beacon of hope to families and children experiencing life challenges. Whether she’s raising awareness of Hawai‘i’s social issues or collaborating with state leaders, businesses and other nonprofits to solve them, Karen is about making long-lasting change that’s relevant and meaningful. HOPE is Karen’s guiding vision: humility, ownership, perseverance and engagement. These core values of CFS are what she relies on to lead the 123-year-old organization’s nearly 400 staff members and programs statewide. She remains at the forefront of trends and best practices, including Results-Based AccountabilityTM, which is used to measure every program’s impact and course correct when needed. Her refreshingly transparent leadership style, accountability, and passion for serving families has established her as a trusted catalyst for positive change here in Hawai‘i.
Fortune 500 companies. Small nonprofits. Local businesses and individual employees. All have turned to Lynne Toyofuku when they’ve needed help. In her more than 30 years as a lawyer, she has assisted clients with whistleblower, sexual harassment, discrimination and a myriad of other labor and employment cases. She’s led employees through labor negotiations and guided companies through ways to avoid conflict with their workers. Toyofuku graduated from La Pietra-Hawai‘i School for Girls and Tufts University, then earned her law degree from Boston University. She has been consistently listed in The Best Lawyers in America® since 2009 and named a Super Lawyer every year as well. Though she retired from private practice in 2021, Toyofuku still works as a court arbitrator and a per diem judge for the Hawai‘i’s Family Court and gives back to the community as a trustee for La Pietra and board member for Special Education Center of Hawai‘i and Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i.
President and owner of Weil & Associates, a Hawai‘i destination management company, La Pietra graduate Debbie Weil-Manuma has a passion for promoting travel business to the Islands. A few of the names she has worked with include American Express, Classic Custom Vacations and SAP, the world’s leading provider of enterprise software, whose annual incentive brings up to 6,000 people to Hawai‘i each year. She has also helped promote Hawai‘i by managing events for travel industry magnets, nationally televised college and NFL bowl games in the Islands and to bring high-level VIPs from overseas to experience Hawai‘i. Weil-Manuma’s exciting, vibrant and colorful career in Hawai‘i’s travel industry has led to the well-deserved honor of being named a 2014 finalist for the Pacific Business News Award for Leaders in Tourism and Hospitality. In 2015, the MPI Aloha Chapter also recognized Debbie’s contributions to Hawai‘i’s travel industry with a grand awards gala.