CCH alumni close reunion with testimonies
Mike Foley | University Relations | 29 July 2008
The 100-plus Church College of Hawaii alumni who met on campus from July 24-27 closed their reunion with a 3.5-hour testimony meeting typified by expressions of love for each other, their participation in President David O. McKay's vision of what the students would accomplish, and their devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"I love you all," said Gary Wong [pictured at upper left], class of '60 and chairman of the CCH constituent group that includes all alumni who attended between the years the Church founded the school in 1955 and the name changed to Brigham Young University Hawaii in 1974.
Wong traced the growth of the CCH group from six interested alumni at the 2005 Jubilee, and said the reunion helped the former Seasiders "know more of each other than we did back then. I'm thankful we've been put together at this point." He added CCH is "in the shadow of all the activities that happen here."
Eric Southon, one of the earliest Samoan students to attend CCH who is now a bishop in the Kona 2nd Ward on the Big Island, agreed "this has been a wonderful, wonderful weekend, made more special because of you. We've been truly watched over by the spirit of aloha as we've reflected on those who are not here and those who have passed on."
"Most of us came here out of obscurity," he said. "We left with new hopes and dreams of a future for ourselves and the families we would raise. We left a legacy for the thousands who would follow."
"CCH was my beginning," said Kona Temple President Earl Veloria ('60, '69, pictured at right) of joining the Church while a student. "We belong to a great army of God. We belong in His service because there are so many of His children out there that need help."
President Veloria also paid tribute to his wife, Audrey Davenport Veloria ('63, '66), whom he met on campus. "I believe men are called [to Church positions] because of their wives," he said.
As did other alumni, Gladys Chu Kalama ('61) also told of finding her late husband, Frank Kalama ('64) at CCH. Kalama told her classmates they had been planning to serve a senior mission before he passed away, and how she has since turned in her mission application papers. "We can't sit back on our laurels," she said. "We need to serve."
Stan Natividad ('66, pictured at left) — who now lives in Pima, Arizona, recently retired as a school teacher, and is serving as a Mesa Temple ordinance worker — recalled hearing Audrey Davenport say one day, "We failed Stan Natividad. How? Because I never joined the Church yet." With the sun rising as he came out of the water off Clissold Beach after the late professor Robert Laird baptized him, Natividad testified, "I never felt so warm."
Another Stan — part-Maori William Stanley Curnow ('66) from New Zealand — told of contracting smallpox that covered his entire body as a teenager while enroute with his parents to work in Utah. He related he received a blessing from Matthew Cowley who told him, "The Lord is preserving you so that you will serve a mission," and promised him the last pox mark would leave when he completed it. "When I got here [after the mission], looking in the mirror, I realized that it [the last one, on his cheek] had gone."
Marcia Grant Oshita ('72, pictured at right), who came from the mainland and married Andy Oshita ('73) while at CCH, testified she "took away what became the foundation of my life... This was the first place I taught a gospel doctrine class, and led music, and served as a Relief Society president. I learned that not everybody was perfect and I needed to empathize with them." She also praised the "wonderful teachers" and said when she and her husband moved to Oregon, they took the aloha spirit with them.
Her husband said, "When I came to Church College, I didn't have a testimony. I was raised a Buddhist." He added he originally only came for a few months because he wanted to go to UH but had to enroll at CCH summer school to get his grades up. Then he credited his classmates for his conversion, and recalled he soon got to point where he didn't want to hang out with his nonmember friends in Honolulu on the weekends. "The classmates I had set for me a wonderful example... I am so grateful for this university. We are a special family, a family of Church College of Hawaii — something that will never be taken away from us."
Similarly, Carl Ciriako of Kealakekua on the Big Island, who came to BYUH as a nontraditional student and graduated in '98 with the support of his wife Faith Figuerres Ciriako ('61, 63), said he received his highest degree of learning in Laie when former temple president Albert Ho "called me as an ordinance worker."
Herman Paleka ('60, '67, pictured at left) — who previously served in many Church leadership positions, filled a senior mission to Nigeria with his wife, Joan Wilson Paleka ('65), and was recently called as bishop of the Kapaa 2nd Ward on Kauai — asked his fellow alumni, "What are you going to do with yourselves now? Heavenly Father created Church College so that you and I could come and be prepared to be leaders. Any CCH person is very special."
In closing the CCH special testimony meeting, which didn't seem very long, Gary Wong told of how he had been thinking of passing his alumni responsibilities to someone else. After all, he had to take a computer class to learn how to communicate via email with the group, and was getting older; but he said the reunion had inspired him to want to do more. He also paraphrased President Thomas S. Monson when he encouraged the departing CCH alumni, "Fill your hearts with aloha."
Church College of Hawaii alumni, led by Sue Stover Keliiliki ('68), sing
at the closing testimony meeting of their 2008 reunion on campus
— Photos by 1970 CCH alum Mike Foley
[NOTE: The date after an alum's name refers to the year he or she graduated or attended Church College of Hawaii. Where two dates are listed, the first refers to an associate degree: CCH was a two-year college from 1955-61.]