The 19th annual Celebrate a Legacy in Tourism event took place on April 29 and was held virtually for the first time in its history. The event raised more than $180,000 thanks to the tireless efforts of the sponsorship committee, led by Co-chairs Vicky Cayetano and Larry Rodriquez; and the generosity of sponsors and individual supporters. All proceeds raised will be exclusively used for School of Travel Industry Management (TIM School) student scholarships. A special recognition unique to this year’s event is a commemorative plaque acknowledging sponsors at the bronze level and above, which will be displayed at the TIM School.
Each year, the Legacy in Tourism and the TIM Alumni Hall of Honor awards are presented to alumni and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to tourism in Hawai‘i and worldwide; and significant contributions to the development of the TIM School at the Shidler College. The 2021 Legacy in Tourism award was presented to Paul Kosasa, president and CEO of ABC Stores and the TIM Alumni Hall of Honor award was given to Glenn Vergara, BBA ’84, vice president and general manager of the Waikiki Resort Hotel.
Rodney Villanueva emceed this year’s event, which started off with a slideshow of congratulatory messages for Kosasa and Vergara from Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Ed Case. These messages, along with a recording of the live event, are available on the website.
The event got underway with remarks from Shidler College Dean Vance Roley, who highlighted the support the TIM School has received to date. He stressed the importance of continuing to build up the school that has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic more than any other program at UH.
“TIM School lost a unique educational environment, which provided students with real-world experiences, professional engagements, and internships and career opportunities,” Roley said. “Your participation this evening will directly support TIM student scholarships and help develop the future leaders of the travel and hospitality industry. But, more importantly, your show of support brings hope and encouragement to more than 350 TIM students and over 4,000 TIM alumni who depend on tourism for their career, businesses and livelihood.”
Mayor Rick Blangiardi then presented proclamations for both honorees, which named April 29, 2021 as “Glenn Vergara Day” and “Paul Kosasa Day.” “No matter how well they’ve been crafted, it pales compared to the body of work and the contributions you’ve made to so many and particularly to the tourism business,” he said.
UH President David Lassner spoke to attendees next. “Given that so many of you are in the travel industry and we know how hard it has been and still is for you, we especially thank you all for joining us this evening,” he said. “Your support helps our students, so they can create better lives for themselves and their families. And your support helps us recruit and retain superb faculty, which is absolutely essential as we begin the path back to becoming one of the very best travel industry management schools in the world.”
Despite the online format, entertainment was added for attendees to enjoy. In a prerecorded video, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s Executive Director Dave Moss and Concertmaster Ignace “Iggy” Jang expressed their sentiments to Kosasa, who chairs the organization’s board. Jang then introduced the two selections the musicians would be performing: “Ahe Lau Makani” by Queen Lili‘uokalani and “Hawai‘i Aloha.”
Rounding out the program were congratulatory videos for each honoree before they gave their remarks. The videos and full honoree speeches can be viewed on the website.
“I am so extremely humbled and proud to receive this award, it’s so unexpected,” Vergara said. “When you come from a small town on Molokai and you come to the big city, you never dream of getting an award from the school for what you do professionally.”
“I’m not used to so much recognition and it’s quite an honor to be recognized by the TIM School and the Shidler School of Business,” Kosasa said. “It’s going to sound cliché that this award is to be shared with our management team and all our employees but it’s not a cliché because it’s true. No one person can achieve all the things you saw in that video. It is a result of many hands working really hard.”
Started in 1999 to honor Dean Emeritus Chuck Y. Gee as he retired from the TIM School after more than thirty years of service, Celebrate a Legacy in Tourism recognizes alumni and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to tourism in Hawai‘i and worldwide.