Motherhood at its Finest
The Outstanding Mother Awards honors some of Hawai‘i’s most amazing ladies, celebrating their lives as businesswomen, community leaders and, most importantly, mothers.
She’s always there. She always puts others before herself. She loves unconditionally. Who is she? She is Mom.
While all mothers are worth celebrating, in this issue we celebrate four: Connie Lau, Ellie Ventula-Honda, Marivic Dar and Su Shin. They are career-driven and community-centered individuals, and yet even they will admit to being mothers above all else.
This special group of women will be honored with the Outstanding Mother Awards at a ceremony on May 28 at ‘Alohilani Resort. The event’s beneficiary is the American Lung Association in Hawai‘i.
Pedro Haro, executive director of American Lung Association–Hawai‘i, hopes the event reminds everyone of the fact that in the islands, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women.
“We wanted to find a way to be able to make sure that we were targeting women — particularly mothers — with our messaging because mothers tend to be the gatekeepers for families health,” Haro says. “They’re the ones making the appointments a lot of the times. So, a lot of times — particularly successful women — put their own health care aside to work at their companies, take care of their children, etc.”
Lau, Ventula-Honda, Dar and Shin were selected by the Hawai‘i Mother’s Day Council not only for their accomplishments as mothers and their work in the community, but to also help spread the nonprofit’s messaging of the importance of health.
“They are definitely models for not just mothers, but for society in general. These are incredibly successful, accomplished women,” Haro says.
Lau began her career as a corporate attorney in San Francisco, and then returned to Hawai‘i to join Hawaiian Electric Co. Lau retired in 2022 after 37 years with the Hawaiian Electric Industries companies, where she held various positions, including serving as president and CEO of HEI, CEO of American Savings Bank, and board chair of ASB and HECO.
A stalwart within the community, Lau has chaired the board at her alma mater, Punahou School, while also serving on the advisory councils for University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Shidler School of Business and John A. Burns School of Medicine; University of California Law School, San Francisco; and the investment advisory committee for Kamehameha Schools.
“I grew up with the saying that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ so I’ve always been involved in the community,” Lau shares.
She says her favorite part of being a mother is simply spending quality time with her family and knowing that her children have grown into caring people who strive to better their communities.
“I have three children and two grandchildren,” Lau says. “Motherhood made me a better corporate executive and person by teaching me how crucial it is to figure out how to inspire each individual — whether child or employee — to realize their best potential.”
When life gets hectic, Lau reminds herself to take a moment to breathe and re-center herself.
As one of the recipients of the Outstanding Mother Awards, Lau says she’s honored to be recognized for her efforts as a businesswoman, community leader and, of course, mother.
“It was always a struggle to balance career, family and being active in the community, and this award recognizes and celebrates the extra effort, grit and resilience that it takes for women to succeed in all three.”
Ventula-Honda has more than 40 years of experience in fund development positions. She helps organizations elevate their fundraising revenues and raise money through various initiatives.
Within the community, Ventula-Honda serves on the boards of directors for different organizations and committees, such as University Laboratory School Foundation and Kidz For A Cause. She’s also served on event committees for Susan G. Komen, Hawaiian Humane Society and March of Dimes. She’s also Mom to two children, and reveals motherhood has taught her that there’s nothing quite like offering unconditional love.
“No one said that motherhood would be easy — and it really isn’t — however, it is so rewarding when you see them grow into individuals that are truly much better versions of yourself,” she says.
As a result of being a mother, she notes that she’s grown both personally and professionally.
“I remind myself daily that I have other special people in my life that are watching my actions and words, perhaps emulating what I say and do,” Ventula-Honda explains. “Therefore (I) try my best to be mindful of how I conduct myself and what I say.”
Ventula-Honda is honored and humbled to be an award recipient.
“Having the opportunity to be recognized for your business, community service and other awards is always a blessing,” Ventula-Honda says. “However, to be recognized for a role that I don’t expect or deserve to be honored for, it is more than a blessing. To be among an elite group of stellar women who balance their careers, helping to make a positive impact in the community and nurturing their families at the same time, is a privilege and beyond words.”
To mothers trying to master the balance between a career and motherhood, Ventula-Honda offers the following advice:
“Remember to do what’s best for your family in a humbling and grateful way, and do the same as you would for your clients and community.”
Dar came to Hawai‘i from the Philippines on an East-West Center scholarship with University of Hawai‘i, where she later earned a master’s degree. She has been a financial adviser for 30 years, and about half of those were spent in management roles.
Regarding community work, Dar admits that she only wants to engage in projects she genuinely believes in.
“When this happens, I become truly passionate and more energized,” Dar shares. “I was a stay-at-home mom when my kids were growing up because it made sense to us at that time. I know the physical, mental, emotional and financial toll this caused me, and I can empathize with women and mothers who have less than me and also lack support.”
When she returned to the workforce, Dar sought out nonprofits that served the needs of women as she believes “giving back is paying it forward.” Her first major involvement was with the state Commission on the Status of Women. She also served on the boards of the Girls Scouts of Hawai‘i, the YWCA of O‘ahu and the Women’s Fund of Hawai‘i, to name a few.
Dar has four children and calls motherhood “the most humbling experience.”
“Motherhood changes you even if you don’t want to. It’s a force,” she says. “I believe it is the greatest miracle. I became a better, more efficient manager who’s a pro at multi-tasking because I had lots of practice at home.”
Her advice to those juggling motherhood as well as a career, is to be present.
“When you’re at home, be at home. Don’t think of your work, just enjoy the moment of bliss with you family,” Dar says.
Dar admits she was pleasantly surprised when discovering she had been selected for the Outstanding Mother Awards.
“It feels surreal, maybe because to be recognized for something you naturally and unquestionably do is the highest honor for a mother,” she says. “Motherhood made me experience what it is to love unconditionally.”
For Shin, her favorite part of being a mother is witnessing the evolution of her two daughters.
“The challenge now, as my children are now grown, is letting go and trusting their maturity, character and judgment,” Shin shares. “I find myself constantly impressed at how compassionate and capable they both are.”
Shin realizes how motherhood has changed her life in various ways.
“It’s made me more humble, selfless, empathetic, patient and thoughtful,” Shin says. “I couldn’t imagine life without my daughters and couldn’t imagine myself without ‘mother’ as one of my titles — the most important one.
“Professionally, I think being a mother has made me a strong leader,” Shin continues. “My daughters are so different, and while raising them, I’ve had to adjust my parenting and communications styles to suit the situation and the individual. This is a skill I continue to practice as a leader, colleague, partner, and, of course, mother.”
As the president and general manager of Hawaiian Telcom, Shin is proud of the role the company plays in bridging the digital divide in Hawai‘i’s most unserved communities.
Whether it’s supporting those who are struggling to make ends meet or educating Hawai‘i’s future leaders, Shin believes she has a responsibility to do what she can in the community.
For starters, Shin supports her alma mater, McKinley High School, by serving on the board of its nonprofit foundation, and was also a Pālama Settlement board member. Additionally, Shin serves as the governance and nominating committee chair of Aloha United Way’s board of directors.
To fellow mothers trying to balance a career and family, Shin encourages women to ask for help when needed.
“Find your village. Be OK with not being perfect,” Shin adds. “Last but not least, give yourself grace.”
The best advice Shin has ever received is to first take care of yourself in order to be in the best shape to care for your family, which echoes the messaging from American Lung Association in Hawai‘i.
The motto of the Outstanding Mother Awards is “making each breath count.”
“Everything that we do, it takes effort, it takes breath,” explains Haro. “We want each breath to be intentional, to be (of) the cleanest air, the best health.”
WAY TO GO, MOMS
Proceeds from the Outstanding Mother Awards event go toward American Lung Association in Hawai‘i’s educational, advocacy and research efforts.
One of the ways the organization supports the local community is via asthma management classes for youth. The American Lung Association in Hawai‘i works with schools, parents and health care providers to train school staff members to help students with asthma.
The American Lung Association in Hawai‘i also takes its advocacy efforts seriously and recently helped pass Senate Bill 975, which would regulate vaping, or electronic smoking, and taxing those individuals at equal levels as other tobacco.
Executive director Pedro Haro is proud of all the Outstanding Mother Awards honorees and is excited to celebrate them at the May 28 ceremony.
“We need to celebrate it,” Haro says of mothers in the workplace. “Women can be executives and be moms. It’s not one or the other.”
While tickets for the Outstanding Mothers Award ceremony are sold out, the community is invited to support the organization via donations. For more information, visit at lung.org/oma-hawaii.