Subaru's Donations to the University of Hawaii at Hilo Boost the Future of Astronomy in Hawaii

December 10, 2010

For the tenth consecutive year, Subaru Telescope has made a generous donation to the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) on behalf of the Japan Foundation for the Promotion of Astronomy (JFPA) to express its appreciation for the community support that Hilo gives to the operation of the Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea. For the past two years, UHH has used the donations to benefit the Department of Physics and Astronomy.


Picture: Participants at the check presentation ceremony were Dr. Hideki Takami, Dr. Philippe Binder, Ms. Rebecca McLaughlin, and Dr. Donald Straney (left to right).

The check presentation for the 2010 donation took place on November 19th. Dr. Donald Straney, Chancellor of UHH, officially received the $9,500 check from Dr. Hideki Takami, Interim Director of the Subaru Telescope, with Dr. Philippe Binder, Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, attending. This year's gift has been used to purchase a spectrograph for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Dr. Binder commented on the value of the new instrument not only for scientific analysis but also for outreach in the community: "This spectrograph is a small, portable, stand-alone instrument that gathers light reflected from astronomical objects and breaks it down into its component parts, revealing the objects' chemical composition, temperature, and speed. It offers a great deal of analytical flexibility and will be especially good for learning about the solar atmosphere. Its portability enhances its value for use in such outreach activities as classroom visits, Onizuka Science Day, and AstroDay." Chancellor Straney emphasized that this year's gift as well as last year's donation are steps toward a broader goal that he hopes the university will reach: "To offer the best astronomy program in the country."

Subaru's 2009 donation of $8,600 on behalf of the JFPA was used to fund a new Subaru Telescope Success Scholarship, so-named because its financial support is intended to ensure that a UHH student pursuing a degree in physics or astronomy can successfully complete a degree in four continual years of study. The value of the contribution doubled, because a limited-time offer from an anonymous donor allowed UHH to match private scholarship contributions on a one-to-one basis. As a result, the scholarship recipient will receive $17,200 over the four-year period.

Rebecca McLaughlin was awarded the Subaru Telescope Success Scholarship in 2010 and began her studies at UHH this fall. She, along with other 2010 scholarship recipients, was honored at a UHH dinner on November 15th, when donors met scholarship recipients and together celebrated academic excellence and philanthropy. Rebecca's passion for astronomy and physics began when she gazed at the stars in the dark skies above her family's 25-acre farm in Minnesota. While attending a charter high school, she completed a project on global warming on Mars. Although she had never been to Hawaii and had applied to nine colleges, Rebecca chose to come to UHH. Why? The small size of the school, the telescopes on Mauna Kea, the program in physics and astronomy, the scholarship, and the "exotic" place drew her here.

The value of the donations that Subaru has made on behalf of JFPA to UHH extends beyond their monetary worth. Since UHH has the highest percentage of students receiving aid of any of the ten campuses in the UH system, and 74% of UHH's freshmen receive financial aid, scholarship support plays a meaningful role in providing educational opportunities for students. The 2009 gift translated into a scholarship to help Ms. McLaughlin realize her dream of working in a science museum one day, providing outreach and communication about astronomy and physics. The 2010 donation allowed the Department of Astronomy and Physics to purchase an instrument that will benefit scientific research, their students, and the community.

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