A Nomination For UH President

Ned Shultz | UH photo

Ned Shultz | UH photo

Prepare yourself, dear readers, I am about to nominate my candidate to succeed M.R.C. Greenwood as president of the University of Hawaii. But first, a couple of warnings are in order.

First, I served on the advisory committee to the UH Board of Regents in its 2001 search for a successor to Ken Mortimer. That search did not work out well. Evan Dobelle got the job, and the board fired him, justifiably, I think, less than three years later. Ooops.

Second, my nominee is a close friend. We’ve taught together, traveled together, drunk a few libations together. He’s the godfather of my son, I’m the godfather of one of his. Enough said.

So I nominate Dr. Edward J. (Ned) Shultz to become the next president of the University of Hawaii.

Why? Talk abounds these days about America’s “pivot toward Asia,” militarily and diplomatically. UH has long claimed study of Asia and the Pacific as one of its areas of excellence, but its presidency has never been held by a scholar of Asia or the Pacific.

Slice open Ned Shultz and Asian blood flows. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea, then returned to Hawaii in 1969 as an East-West Center grantee to work on his doctorate in Asian history. His Ph.D. dissertation became the basis for his Generals and Scholars: Military Rule in Medieval Korea (UH Press, 2000). And he and his mentor, Prof. Hugh Kang, have been translating Korean historical texts into English for 40 years.

Yep, Shultz speaks Korean fluently, plus passable Chinese and Japanese. As an undergraduate teacher at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu, he taught upper-division two-course sequences in the histories of China, Japan and Korea. As Dean of the UH’s School of Pacific and Asian Studies for the past six years, he’s crisscrossed Asia, the Mainland and Europe, attending conferences on the region. Add three Fulbright grants to cover sabbatical leaves in Asian, and in Ned the University has an Asian scholar recognized across three continents.

And he’s a first-rate administrator. He knows how to listen, soothe, accommodate, then persuade faculty and colleagues to do the right thing, no matter how it impinges on their sometimes overinflated sense of themselves.

After Ned left UH-West Oahu in 1998 to lead the Korean Studies Center at Manoa, I’d kid him about the loss of a good teacher to the dark ranks of administration. Hearing one such jibe, the late, great UH botanist Izzie Abbott called me on it: “There are a lot of good teachers, Dan, but not many good university administrators. Ned’s a good one.”

Just as important, Ned is embedded in Hawaii and the university. Hawaii’s Korean community adores him. He’s married into an extended Hawaiian-Chinese family that included former Chief Justice William Richardson. Elder son Keoni earned his law degree from the university’s Richardson College of Law. His wife, Kamaile, received both her undergraduate and medical degree at Manoa. Second son Koa earned a graduate degree in botany at Manoa, while his wife is at work on her doctorate in education.

And Prof. Shultz knows every word of the university’s alma mater – and can sing them on key. Try that test on any university administrator of your acquaintance.

Ned knows his way to the Legislature, where he will neither preen nor grow defensive, neither lecture nor grovel. And think about it: He will be able to speak to either Hawaii-born Senate president Donna Mercado Kim or Seoul-born House Finance chairwoman Sylvia Luke in the language of their choice.

Finally, Ned Shultz is simply a good guy. Make him UH’s next president and he will calm the waters, right the ship and steer it into a bright future. I’d trust the guy with my kids, my miniscule fortune, whatever. And I’d trust him with my university.