Pharmacy pioneer to address spring graduates

May 7, 2015

Dr. John Pezzuto, founding dean of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College (DKICP) of Pharmacy, will be the keynote speaker at the University’s spring commencement, to be held on Saturday, May 16 at 9 a.m. at Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium.

Students have petitioned for a total of 821 degrees and/or certificates from the colleges of Arts and Sciences (472), Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (29), Business and Economics (41), Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke`elikõlani College of Hawaiian Language (33) and Pharmacy (181), while others are candidates for various post graduate honors (65).

Pezzuto arrived at UH Hilo in 2006 from Purdue University, where he had served as professor and dean of the College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences. He was tasked with creating a college from the ground up to serve Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region as envisioned by the late Hawaiʻi U.S. Senator for whom the institution is named.

Despite having no offices, staff or students, he assembled a team of world-renowned faculty, which enabled the then UH Hilo College of Pharmacy to seat an inaugural class of 90 students in 2007 and award its first degrees in 2011. Today, the College is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), on track to become one of the nation’s top 25 institutions and can look forward to moving into new, modern facilities following last year’s groundbreaking on a permanent home.

Pezzuto believes the successful journey that took the College from a concept to its current status illustrates what can be accomplished through inspiration, focus and hard work -- the same qualities required to earn a degree.

“Many people predicted the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy would fail. But it will not fail,” Pezzuto said. “And I hope our graduates can view this as an example of how they, too, can be part of something that improves society while at the same time generating pride and self-contentment.”

His address also marks the final UH Hilo commencement for Pezzuto, who leaves in August to assume his new duties as professor and dean of the Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Long Island University (LIU) in Brooklyn, New York. He embarks on that next chapter with a sense of satisfaction that the team he assembled has largely fulfilled its lofty goals.

“From the very beginning, our aspiration was to not simply create a degree mill but to create a top-ranked college that will inspire hope and pride,” Pezzuto said. “And we have proven that a college with all the right stuff can be based in Hilo and thrive.

“Building this College and everything surrounding its creation has become a part of my soul,” Pezzuto added. “In that sense, I don’t imagine I will ever leave.”

Alyssa Loving, a mathematics major with a minor in computer science, represents the Class of 2015 as student speaker. Born on Hawaiʻi Island and raised in Honomu, she has earned numerous academic honors and awards both locally and abroad.

At UH Hilo, Loving has maintained a 3.97 GPA and received the UH Presidential Scholarship, the Pearson Mathematics Underclassman and Graduating Senior Awards, the Pearson Book Award For Outstanding Computer Science Freshman, and the UH Centennial Scholarship.

Outside the classroom, she has participated in UH Hilo’s PURE Math program, spent a semester studying mathematics in Budapest and summers performing mathematics research at Williams College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work has been showcased at national conferences where she won the outstanding research poster award from the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. She has also earned honorable mention for her achievements by the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship and is a National Merit Commended Scholar.

Loving will enter a mathematics graduate program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall where she will continue to pursue her passion in mathematics research.

See more news from 2015.