First Endowed Fund at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

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Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a. Courtesy photo.

Earlier this year, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo announced the establishment of the first permanently endowed fund.

The fund honors the legacy of the late educator and government planner Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a.

Gordon Pi‘ianai‘a of Honolulu and Norman Pi‘ianai‘a of Kamuela launched the endowment in memory of their sister, and thanks to generous matching gifts from the community, the fund has already reached $55,000 and is still growing.


The Pi‘ianai‘a family’s stated goal for the endowment is to expand access to educational programming at ‘Imiloa by local elementary, middle and high school students. The funds are being invested in perpetuity by the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, and ‘Imiloa will use the annual earnings to subsidize items such as admission fees and/or transportation to the center, scholarships for ‘Imiloa programs, and/or program outreach to rural parts of Hawai‘i Island and the state.

About Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a (1947–2006)
Born and raised on O‘ahu, Pi‘ianai‘a pursued a noteworthy career in the public sector, starting with her service as a Hawai‘i County planner helping to develop a general plan for the island. She later served with the Hawai‘i Community Development Authority and worked on the Kaka‘ako Improvement District, among other projects.

She lectured about geography and planning at UH Mānoa from 1980 to 1984, administered the Task Force on the Hawaiian Homes Commission from 1982 to 1983, then held appointments as Hawai‘i County deputy planning director, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, director of the Office of International Relations and Affairs, and deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture.


A longtime friend of Ilima, Deanne Lemle Bosnak, remembers her as “a perfect embodiment of ‘aloha.’ She personally represented Hawai‘i’s beautiful blend of cultures, its warm hospitality and its welcoming aloha spirit. She was also a diplomat who worked hard to build bridges between disparate communities and cultures, demonstrating in everything she did a deep respect for the land and the values of its people.”

Courtesy photo provided by ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

“This spring, ‘Imiloa marked the 11th anniversary of our opening, so this is a propitious time to be launching the center’s first permanent endowment, which will ensure that we share our unique brand of programming with both current and future generations of schoolchildren,” ‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka‘iu Kimura said about the gift. “We are humbled by the generosity of the Pi‘ianai‘a family and the many friends of Ilima who have stepped forward to support our mission and help us reach more young people throughout our second decade and beyond!”

“This wonderful gift will benefit the children of Hawai‘i for years to come,” said University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney.

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