Seattle U and the Aloha State: How Luau and the Hawaii Alumni Chapter Got Their Starts

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, '18 on Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 11:14 AM PDT

April is a big month for students and alumni from Hawaii. Every Seattle U alum from Hawaii remembers Luau, a popular celebration hosted by the Hawaii Club, for students and alumni. This April, alumni in Hawaii are celebrating the relaunch of the Hawaii Alumni Chapter.

Ask any Seattle U student what the longest running club on campus is and they are likely to say the Hawaii Club. Also known as Hui O Nani, this tight knit club describes itself as “a place for those from the islands to call their ‘home away from home’" and a place for those interested in Hawaii to understand and learn what the Aloha State is all about.” But how did one of Seattle University’s longest running clubs get its start? To get the answer, we asked Elliott Chamizo, ’66.

Elliott has long been an important part of the SU community. “In 1961 there were about eighteen of us from Hawaii at Seattle University. We were the first large group from Hawaii to come to SU and we decided it was time to start a club.”

According to Elliott, with the help and guidance of Seattle U’s Hiking Club, the group put in their request and developed a charter for the new club. By 1962 the group was organizing its first Luau.

“Seattle U didn’t have a big venue at the time, so we went off campus to the Knights of Columbus Hall up the street from campus.” The Hawaii Club students decorated the hall and had food flown in from relatives in Honolulu. “We had a real pig prepared by Islanders who lived in the Seattle area,” Elliott recalled.  “We had a great turn out. 150-200 people came out to the first luau. It was such a success that we kept having it year after year.” Luau, usually hosted in early May, quickly became an annual event the entire campus community looked forward to.

Luau Dancers

A few years ago, the club celebrated its 50th anniversary. Then club president, Keenan Kurihara, invited the founding members back to campus to celebrate. “About 15 of us returned and shared the history of the club and the founding of it.”

Despite returning to Hawaii after graduation, Seattle U has left its mark on Elliott. “I was definitely impacted by the Jesuit charism and the idea of community service.” A long-time teacher at Maryknoll High School in Honolulu, Elliott encouraged many future Redhawks to attend Seattle U, including Kurihara.

Despite annual visits by Seattle U in the past, there has not been an active alumni chapter in Hawaii until now. The Hawaii Alumni Chapter leadership committee consists of co-presidents Jennel Sesoko, ’08, and Brandi Yamauchi, ’12, events chair Jeanie Sohn, ’06, and communication chair Keenan Kurihara, ‘16.

According to the chapter’s presidents, “There's something special and unforgettable about those college years at Seattle University.  Whether it be the luau, life in the dorms, Quadstock or creating those lifelong friendships, we all have a connection to Seattle U.  From service projects to social events, the Hawaii Alumni Chapter provides alumni an opportunity to connect, engage and foster that same sense of community right here in Hawaii.”

So whether you’re in Seattle longing for your time on the islands or you’re in Hawaii missing Seattle, with Luau on April 28 and the newly formed Hawaii Alumni Chapter, there’s something for everyone.

Visit SU Alumni Connect to learn about how you can get involved in the Hawaii Alumni Chapter.