A Look Back at the Islanders of the Year From Years Past

The Islanders of the Year have always been an eclectic mix. Over the course of the series’ first 18-year run, HONOLULU made some high-impact and provocative choices.

The previous Islanders of the Year were an eclectic mix. Over the course of the franchise’s first 18-year run, HONOLULU made some high-impact choices (the year Linda Lingle became the first elected woman elected Hawai‘i governor and only the second Republican), as well as provocative selections that included UH Hawaiian Studies professor and activist Haunani-Kay Trask.


1988: Chris Hemmeter, a developer known for over-the-top fantasy resorts who was planning to buy out Hawaiian Airlines when the stock market crashed.


1989: The Sandy Beach Coalition, the team that worked successfully to preserve much of the Ka Iwi Coast from development.


1990: Rudy Choy and Tom Gentry, boat racers who each, separately, set records for the fastest transpacific crossing and transatlantic crossing, respectively.


1991: Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, after a particularly destructive year for Kileaua lava flows.


1992: Haunani-Kay Trask, longtime Hawaiian studies professor and activist.


1993: Cliff Slater, community advocate who has been fighting against fixed rail for decades.


1994: Sen. Richard Matsuura, the late Big Island senator.

1995: Dan Foley, longtime civil-rights attorney who gained national attention advocating for same-sex marriage, and now an associate judge at the Intermediate Court of Appeals.


1996: Mahealani Pai, the Hawaiian activist who occupied Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park with his ‘ohana.


1997: Alana Dung (and 30,000 others), the spunky young cancer patient who tugged at Hawai‘i’s heartstrings while seeking an ultimately unsuccessful bone marrow transplant.


1998: Charles Reed Bishop, founder of the Bishop Estate, named as Islander in the wake of the Broken Trust scandal.


1999: Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi, who created an innovative cloning technique at UH Mānoa. Green mice!


2000: June Jones, the UH football coach who led the Warriors to a dramatic turnaround.


2001: Freddy Rice, the Big Island rancher who challenged Kamahemeha Schools Hawaiians-only admission policy.


2002: Earl Okawa, president of the Japan-America Society during the Ehime Maru sinking; Dr. Lorrin Pang, a Maui district health officer who battled dengue fever; Manu Ka’iama, a CPA/UH professor who started the Native Hawaiian Leadership Project; David Black, the Canadian publisher who bought the Honolulu Star-Bulletin; Hakim Onansafi, president and chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawai‘i; former Big Island Mayor Harry Kim; Michelle Wie, Hawaii’s own tennis phenomenon.


2003: Linda Lingle, Hawai‘i’s first woman governor and second elected Republican.


2004: Mel Kahele, president of the Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996 who led the union through TheBus strike.


2005: The Island Soldier, all the people who have served in the military from the Islands, risking their lives.