Oswald “Oz” Stender, a former trustee of Bishop Estate who spoke out about the need for accountability at the multibillion dollar trust, has died. He was 90.

His family issued a statement to the media confirming that he died Wednesday afternoon at his home.

“Our family asks for respect and privacy at this time, as we grieve the loss of our ‘Oz’ – a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather,” the family said.

Kawananakoa Press conference supporters Oz Stender.
Oz Stender speaks at a press conference in 2018. He died Wednesday after decades of public service in Hawaii. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

Stender was chief executive officer of Campbell Estate in 1990 when he was tapped to be a trustee of Bishop Estate, an educational trust for Native Hawaiians endowed by the will of the late Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Within three months, he raised concerns to his fellow trustees about the lack of organizational accountability.

By 1997, five prominent Hawaii community members authored the “Broken Trust” articles lambasting the mismanagement of Bishop Estate. Correcting the financial problems was critical in order to preserve the future of the trust.

At the time, the Honolulu Star Bulletin editorialized, “We are certain that the current trustees, with the honorable exception of Oswald Stender, have betrayed the trust vested in them by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and should resign.”

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser later described Stender as someone whom “many saw as a white knight in the struggle” against mismanagement of the trust.

Stender later served as a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

His friend Peter Apo, who met Stender at the 1978 constitutional convention, described Stender as honest, humble and a great listener.

“Truly a great public servant, a great Hawaiian dedicated to service not just to all the people of Hawaii, but especially to Hawaiians,” he said.

Apo spent the last several years working with Stender to advocate for improving access to Hawaiian home lands for Native Hawaiians.

Apo said the fact that the Legislature is considering a $600 million infusion of funds for Hawaiian home lands is partially due to Stender’s years of advocacy on the issue.

Randall Roth is an attorney who co-authored the Broken Trust essays and later wrote a book of the same name.

“I admired his willingness to do what it took to bring pono to the Kamehameha Schools trust,” he said. “I think the only reason that things changed is that there was a small number of people who were willing to take personal risks and share the information they had and Oz was at the front of that line.”

He echoed Apo’s assessment of Stender as honest and humble.

“In every sense of the word,” Roth said, he was “a truly good man.”

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