Hawaii’s Movers & Shakers: UH President M.R.C. Greenwood

M.R.C. Greenwood
M.R.C. Greenwood

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It’s been a turbulent few months for UH President M.R.C. Greenwood in the wake of the costly Stevie Wonder concert scam.

She’s speaking out about why she’s sticking with the university and her plans for the future.

“So it has been a difficult time when you talk about who were my supporters well, my family, and at times it certainly felt like the only set of supporters,” Greenwood said.

She’s referring to the botched Stevie Wonder concert and its aftermath that put her through the ringer. So why stay?

“While this hasn’t been the easiest period that I’ve been through it’s not been the hardest either,” Greenwood said.

She spent two years in the White House, its Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“As much as a hot house this can be and has been over the last six, eight months, that was really intense and the fastest learning curve that I’ve been on,” Greenwood said.

She became a single mom after a marriage out of high school ended. Greenwood was able to become a scientist, professor, college administrator, thanks to an anonymous donor who paid her tuition at Vasser College.

“So, so much of what I’ve done in education has been shaped by that single moment, that someone else cared enough to try to help me get an education and I’ve always felt ever since then that i needed to make the most of it,” Greenwood said.

And that leads to the other reason she stays. She says UH has accomplished much of what the Board of Regents laid out when she was hired in 2009, from the recently opened UH Cancer Research Center and opening of UH West Oahu.

“Why would I want to stay? That’s why, you do make a difference. This is one of the few careers that you can go into where you can look back in 25 years and say, ‘I made a difference in those people’s lives. I made a difference in the state. I made a difference in the institution,'” Greenwood said.

And she has a vision for the future of UH.

“My vision is that we are the best in the world in several areas, astronomy, ocean sciences, climate change, energy we’re getting better and better and cancer research we’re getting better,” Greenwood said.

But would she stay beyond the end of her contract in mid-2015, if a new one was offered?

“Oh boy, that’s a really hard question to answer, but not because of the stress or any of this. That’s more related to where I am with my family, my age, how much energy I still have at that point,” Greenwood said.

She would be 72 years old. Her family? Her son who is now 51, her grandchildren and her partner, biologist Patricia Johnson.

“How long have you and Pat been together? It will be 50 years next year. I think that’s a long time in anybody’s set,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood has faced criticism for not living at College Hill, as her UH contract pays for her and Johnson’s Waikiki Condo. But Greenwood says College Hill was never an option.

“College Hill is now the university’s house so that’s been decided and that was decided before I came. Actually in spite of the fact, there was a lot of confusion about that.”

She and Johnson are perfectly happy where they’re at.

“I would say she probably likes Hawaii better than I do but then again she doesn’t have my job this year,” Greenwood said.

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