Gift & Estate Planning

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Violet S. Sato Leaves an Educational Legacy

Violet S. Sato Leaves an Educational Legacy

Violet Sato excelled in two fields: education and business. For eighteen years she served in various positions for the Department of Education; then she entered the business world.

Although she was never a CEO, several times for long periods she served as the executive assistant on whom CEOs relied to see that things were executed properly. During her two careers she was successful in both roles.

When war erupted in 1941, she volunteered at Waialua High School to help wherever she could be of use. Eventually her 'job' at Waialua High expanded to include duties as secretary, accountant, nurse, and librarian. She also helped the cafeteria manager acquire the school food supplies that were difficult to find during the war years. During World War II everyone was urged to pitch in to accomplish whatever had to be done.

The school principal suggested that although Violet worked full time days at the school she might also take evening classes at the University of Hawai'i to complete her degree. That suggestion would turn out to be more useful to her in later years.

Violet was the first of five children. Her parents ran the general store in Haleiwa. They recognized education as the pathway to a better life for their children. Consequently it is not surprising that her two brothers and other two sisters all completed college. One brother even went on to become a dentist. Their success demonstrated the value of education beyond high school.

In 1951 she became registrar at Kaimuki High School. By that time she had attended a variety of UH courses related to her career. For example, if she had questions related to accounting, she signed up for an accounting class.

At Kaimuki High she oversaw the testing program and was a part-time school counselor. She defined her role as more than a disciplinarian. When she recognized a student who was in difficulty (what she called 'naughty boys') she was willing to intervene.

Misbehavior was not the only problem she dealt with. For example when a student came to school without lunch or lunch money, she preserved his pride by providing him an advance in exchange for his coming in after school to help her with classroom chores. She took pains to instill self-confidence in her student clients. Thanks to her successful interventions, some of those 'problem students' completed high school, went on to college, and are now comfortably retired.

The reputation she had established in education came to the attention of one of the leaders in the downtown business world. He offered her a position as his executive assistant to work with him as he dealt with his responsibilities for the Damon Estate. For nineteen years she served as executive assistant to the head of the Damon Enterprises and Charities. Subsequently she spent four years in a similar position with C. Brewer's International Agribusiness. Her final eight years before retiring from fulltime employment she served as executive assistant to the Richard Smart Trust.

After Violet's retirement from the business world a friend suggested she might want to continue her service to students by funding a student scholarship trust. She found the idea appealing. As a result, in 2006 the Violet S. Sato Endowed Scholarship Trust was funded and established through the assistance of the UH Foundation.

The fund supports two graduates each year, one from Waialua High School and one from Kaimuki High School. They can attend any UH campus. To date the scholarships have helped thirteen students to pursue their education. Some of their letters of appreciation to Miss Sato have been very touching. Their comments have confirmed the value of providing them with access to college, occasionally impossible otherwise.

Recently Miss Sato has been able to increase the scholarship fund by adding to the endowment. This enhancement will also continue in perpetuity to help even more students.

She shared her pleasure by saying, "My silent wish is that students will all become better human beings because of the help they have received. I sincerely hope that they will respond by helping someone else. In addition perhaps even members of their families will catch the spirit and spread it further. That is my hope and my inspiration. Scholarships have the potential to transform lives."


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