It doesn’t require multiple advanced degrees to conclude that UH has been stalled in troubled waters for far too long.
A good place to start a recitation of the university’s woes is with President Evan Dobelle, a gifted grifter who seemed to bathe in snake oil. At the university, Dobelle gained a national reputation for his frequent financial indiscretions, including billing for lavish personal expenses. Rather than being booted out the door, he agreed to leave — and was rewarded with an unholy sum of money and various benefits. As a result of this kind of treatment, Dobelle was enabled to peddle his trademark skullduggery at Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts.
Sadly, at least for him, this was cut short when Dobelle ran face-first into the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General. The inspector general found President Dobelle enjoyed lavish dinners, milking university and foundation funds, charging his own expenses to the university and using credit cards for personal pleasures.
Then there was the Wonder Blunder. In an impressive absence of due diligence UH plowed head-on into disaster without consulting Tom Moffat, who is considered by many to be the greatest concert promoter in the history of Hawaii. In fact, Tom had actually presented Stevie Wonder at Aloha Stadium.
This mistake was compounded when UH President MRC Greenwood, after being put to task, over the Wonder Blunder, tendered an offer to resign with a $2 million price tag and the threat of a lawsuit. Happily calmer heads prevailed and, after a much-appreciated apology by MRC, she completed her term. Fortunately, she will continue her pioneering scientific work in the areas of obesity and diabetes.
These occurrences create legitimate concern regarding the administration of the UH system and raise the specter that its reputation, academically and otherwise, has suffered significant damage. For these reasons it is an excellent time to think outside the sometimes cloistered box of traditional academia. It is time to embrace necessary change.
During my tenures as Honolulu’s 13th mayor and 3rd elected prosecuting attorney, I had the privilege of developing a large number of personal friendships with members of the military. As a result I was invited to attend military functions, observe military operations and participate in military training. Due to these encounters I spoke to, or had some contact with, thousands of members of our military. Some had recently completed boot camp while others served at the highest ranks. This is when I met Frank Wiercinski.
His accomplishments are remarkable. To understand fully his qualifications requires little research. There have been 44 presidents of the United States and 31 of them served in the military. Only 3 of our nation’s presidents held higher ranks than Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski: George Washington, who had something to do with the creation of a nation; Ulysses S. Grant, who had something to do with preserving that nation; and Dwight D. Eisenhower who, by assisting Europe to escape from the tyrannies of fascism and Nazism, helped propel our nation to the global power that it is today.
When I learned that Frank was one of two highly qualified finalists for the presidency of UH, I was supportive and ultimately fully committed to advocate for his selection. My reasoning is not particularly complicated.
Frank was responsible for some 87,000 men and women, predominately adult teenagers and 20-somethings. At UH he would be responsible for approximately 68,000 men and women who are mostly in the same age group.
It is an excellent time to think outside the sometimes cloistered box of traditional academia.
In the Army, Frank was responsible for the health, well-being and morale of the people under his care. At UH he would be responsible for the health, well-being and morale of the people under his care.
In the Army, Frank was required to cooperate, coordinate and communicate within a staggeringly large and complex organization on a global scale. During his tenure he advanced unprecedented partnerships and cooperative engagements with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and the People’s Republic of China. Due to his proven diplomatic skills, the State Department invited him to begin engagements with Indonesia and Burma. He became the first U.S. military general to visit Burma in 25 years.
He displayed compassion through involvement with and promotion of peacekeeping operations, including disaster-management exercises, military medicine and engineering projects.
The greatest impediment to necessary change is inertia. Inertia is the tendency of an object or institution to remain unchanged unless subjected to an external force. Frank Wiercinski is an external force extraordinaire.
His willingness to take on the job of UH President provides a remarkable opportunity. He brings a new set of eyes and abilities to propel UH through troubled waters and steer it toward the greater national and global presence it has the potential to achieve.