A new chapter is unfolding at BYU–Hawaii under the leadership of President John S.K. Kauwe III, who began his service to BYU–Hawaii in July 2020. With a unique set of experience, perspective, and passion, President Kauwe is poised to propel the university toward an exciting future.
President Kauwe is the first Native Hawaiian to become president of BYU–Hawaii, and his Hawaiian roots are intertwined with his faith.
President Kauwe’s fourth great-grandfather Kaleohano was one of the first converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hawaii and devoted his life to building the Church in Hawaii and establishing Laie as a gathering place for the Saints.
“[Kaleohano’s] spiritual legacy has been a part of my life from my earliest memories,” says President Kauwe. “Now I’m here in this same place working for the same cause: to preserve culture, to preserve faith, to create peace between cultures. It’s an incredible opportunity that is fundamentally linked to my Hawaiian culture and my faith.”
Left: President Kauwe’s fourth great-grandfather Kaleohano was one of the first converts to the Church in Hawaii. Right: President and Sister Kauwe began their leadership at BYU–Hawaii in July 2020.
Scientist and Mentor
As a professor at BYU in Provo, President Kauwe became a world-renowned geneticist and expert on Alzheimer’s disease, and he plans to continue his research while serving as president of BYU–Hawaii. “I study things that I’m passionate about,” he says. “And it’s been so rewarding.”
President Kauwe applies the same passion to mentoring students. “From a very early age, I’ve had mentors who have taken an interest in me, and it has made every difference in my life,” he says. “With the 130 or so students who have worked in my lab over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor them. The science that we’re doing matters for the whole world, but it also matters for them to develop the skills they need to be successful.”
As a world-renowned scientist, President Kauwe has worked hard to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease while also mentoring students in his lab.
President Kauwe says that when he and his wife, Monica, received their appointment to BYU–Hawaii, they felt confirmation and confidence from the Spirit “that, despite our weaknesses and imperfections and the things we worry about, we could do this.”
The Kauwes want to instill that same confidence in students at BYU–Hawaii. “Our students are truly wonderful, and they are loved dearly by faculty and staff who sacrifice on a daily basis for their well-being,” President Kauwe says. “I want them to know that I believe in them, that their families believe in them, that their Church leaders believe in them, that the Lord believes in them. I believe in their capacity to have faith, to be exceptional in their scholarly endeavors, and to influence the world for good.”
President Kauwe and his wife, Monica, love the students of BYU–Hawaii and believe in their capacity for goodness and greatness.
Thankful for Donors
“I’m so grateful for the influence donors have had on my career and the lives of my students,” says President Kauwe. “I see what your generosity is doing for our students on a personal level, and it’s absolutely extraordinary.”
He adds, “Your support for BYU–Hawaii is incredibly important. I want to express my deepest gratitude to you for your past, present, and future support. Together we can bless the lives of many more students in the future. Mahalo.”
Getting to Know President Kauwe
Meet the Family
With five children ages 2 to 13, President Kauwe loves spending time with his family.
President Kauwe’s fourth great-grandfather Kaleohano was one of the first converts to the Church in Hawaii.
For President Kauwe, fishing is more than just a hobby; it’s a passion. During one trip to Samoa, he earned the title of Master Fisherman from the locals.