BYU–Hawaii celebrates faculty and staff ohana with a dinner and talent show

Written by: 
Mariah Hunt


The 2019 Ho’omaika’i Employee Appreciation Night was held at the Cannons Activity Center on Jan. 31 to celebrate staff and BYU–Hawaii ohana. Faculty who have worked five to 45 years were recognized, food was served, and a talent show was performed. President John S. Tanner spoke of the importance of praise and said working at BYUH is “life-changing” because of the people who are here.

Pres. Tanner wrote in the event program that ho'omaika'i “means ‘to congratulate,’ but also ‘to thank,’ ‘to bless,’ and ‘to praise.’” As such, the evening was a way to thank the many people that care for BYUH, focusing primarily on faculty and staff.

“The world rings with praise,” said Pres.Tanner. “I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is merely appointed consummation.”

Tanner went on to praise the staff and faculty for their hard work and commitment, expressing his love for all of them. At the end of the night, he and his wife, Susan Tanner, spent time walking around to speak with those who came with friends and family.

The relaxed approach to the night was one of the many reminders that the faculty and staff at BYUH are more of a family than a group of coworkers.

In a video interview presented at the event, Phillip Bruner, 40-year-veteran biology professor, said, “It feels like we’re a family here, more than other places.”

Elder Kip and Sister Cheri Jenkins, religion faculty and senior missionaries from Idaho, sat next to the dance floor. They expressed how they enjoyed their night. Kip Jenkins shared, “This is the second Ho’omaikai that we’ve attended since the beginning of our mission and while both were enjoyable, this was the better organized and the activities contributed well to the making of a very enjoyable dinner and entertainment experience for my wife and me.

“Whether you’re here at BYUH as faculty, staff, student, missionary, or volunteer, being here is a life-changer. The professional music presented by the Hawaiian trio was very, very enjoyable and well-suited for the evening.”

As part of the celebrations, the attendees danced to acoustic guitar and ukulele music by Josh Tatofi, performed in a talent show segment, and ate dinner with friends and family. Those in attendance said the dinner was charmingly casual, an example being the emcee jokingly promised the staff recognized for their 20 years of service that there wouldn’t have any technical difficulties announcing their recognition when they made it to 40 years.

Impressed by the long-serving faculty members and staff, Kip Jenkins said, “The love [the faculty] have for the students and the place of refuge that Laie is for all who come. We always appreciate those who see working at BYUH more than just a job, and we very much appreciate the love for students that all employees seem to demonstrate, but we especially feel that love from long-time employees. We want to follow their example.”

Kela Miller, the wife of retired security guard Martin Miller who worked at BYUH for over 25 years, was “glad they invite the retirees.” Miller gave an impromptu hula performance at the event, accompanying Tahotofi’s beautiful music, adding tremendously to an evening of recognition and celebration. There were many retired staff in attendance as well as faculty of only a few semesters.

Later in the evening, staff performed a dance number in which sequins were involved; and the “Tahitian Boys” from Food Services performed a Tahitian/modern dance to upbeat music as the crowd excitedly clapped to the beat and cheered them on.

It was a drizzling grey evening, but the CAC was filled with warm and celebratory Seasider colors, decorating tables that filled the entire floor. The tables were laced with plates filled with macarons and profiterole, sparkly decorations and bouquets of small flags with portraits of the hundreds of faculty and staff that help BYUH function. There were only a few empty seats left, as the many guests ate the delicious food and enjoyed the festivities.

At the end of the event, Phyllis Peters, the longtime secretary for the International Cultural Studies department and the Jonathan Napela Center, picked up a flag and handed it to the person whose picture is displayed. When asked how she felt about the event, she simply said, “It was awesome,” noting how happy she was to see people she has worked with for years.


Date Published: 
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Last Edited: 
Thursday, February 14, 2019