A Roosevelt High School graduate has been named the new president of Hawaii Pacific University. The HPU Board of Trustees selected John Yukio Gotanda as the university’s next president following a national search led by a university committee that included HPU trustees, faculty, staff, and students.
An accomplished academic leader, Gotanda will take over as HPU’s president on June 30, 2016. He will succeed current president Dr. Geoffrey Bannister, who will retire on July 1, 2016 after five years at the university’s helm.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Gotanda is a graduate of Roosevelt High School, the University of Hawaii at Manoa (BBA, 1984) and the William S. Richardson School of Law (J.D., 1987), where he was editor-in-chief of the law review.
Gotanda currently serves as the Arthur J. Kania Dean of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law in Villanova, PA. He assumed the deanship in 2011, a time at which legal education was undergoing seismic shifts caused by a stagnant job market for graduates and criticisms of an outdated pedagogical model. Under Gotanda’s leadership, the Law School navigated the maelstrom, emerging as an industry innovator thanks to a bold Strategic Plan that directly responds to changes in the legal industry. Most notably, the School transformed its curriculum to focus on the academic, practical and professional skills needed to succeed in 21st-century legal practice. The Villanova Law Campaign to Ignite Change — the most ambitious fundraising initiative in the School’s history — was also launched during Gotanda’s tenure and has already exceeded its $50 million goal due, in part, to a landmark $25 million naming gift from alumnus Charles Widger.
“We are very pleased and proud to have someone of John’s caliber and reputation help us continue to build on our successes to date and lead HPU into the future,” said Joachim Cox, chair of the HPU board of trustees. “As a strategic leader with a record of success and a commitment to innovation, solid academics, and student success, he is absolutely the right person to guide HPU into the next phase of its development, as we begin our 51st year as Hawaii’s premier private university.”
“John’s tremendous success in transforming Villanova’s Law School prepares him well to lead HPU forward,” said Dr. Geoffrey Bannister, HPU’s current president. “His close ties to Hawaii, coupled with his deep passion for education, commitment to student success, and outstanding international experience, position him well to guide HPU’s continued growth and development.”
Gotanda’s vision for HPU emphasizes the importance of an inspired academic community — one that unites faculty, staff, students and alumni and connects them with the broader Hawaii community and the world. Strategic priorities include the cultivation of an innovative educational experience that is student-centered and market-aligned; the enhancement of world-class research and global learning opportunities; and the engagement and mobilization of HPU’s dedicated alumni base.
“I am excited to return home to lead a University at the crossroads of the Pacific, one that attracts students from all over the world who are eager to become leaders for a global society,” Gotanda said. “HPU’s commitment to academic excellence is impressive, providing each student with a personalized educational experience and emphasizing an active learning environment that affords hands-on opportunities that prepare students to make an immediate global impact. And HPU’s innovative research and dedication to serving the community clearly resonates with me. I am very much looking forward to joining and working with everyone in the HPU family.”
“As trustees of Hawaii Pacific University, our primary goal is to ensure the continued success and development of our university and our students,” Cox said. “For this next chapter at HPU, we were looking for a leader with a track record of accomplishment. John brings that and more, including life-long ties to Hawaii and deep-seated love for our state and our community.”
Gotanda served Villanova Law as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Dean for Research, Director of the JD/MBA Program and Professor prior to being named Dean in 2011. In his previous roles, he directed major academic programs and projects, such as the JD/MBA program, the Judicial Externship program and the Global Democracy project; led curricular improvement and faculty recruitment efforts; and spearheaded initiatives to promote faculty scholarship.
Recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on damages in international law, Gotanda has served as an expert for the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. State Department, and as an arbitrator for the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. He has been published in leading academic journals and his writings have been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit and other courts and tribunals, including numerous international tribunals. He has spoken widely on the subjects of damages and international dispute resolution, including at the Hague Academy of International Law, the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, Tokyo University, and Tsinghua University.
Gotanda is married to Brenda Hustis Gotanda, a partner with the environmental and energy law firm of Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox LLP, where she leads its sustainability practice group. Together, they have two children, William and Kayla.
Founded in 1953, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law provides broad-based legal education that is grounded in academic rigor, practical hands-on training and a foundation in business that prepares graduates for diverse and rewarding legal careers. The Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association, offers seven in-house clinics and more than 150 externship opportunities that immerse students in the real-world application of their legal skills. Villanova is home to Centers of Excellence—the Center for Law and Religion; the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance; the John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship; and the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law—which provide students the opportunity to pursue innovative, interdisciplinary legal fields through study, practical experience and mentorship.
Celebrating 50 years, Hawaii Pacific University is the state’s leading independent, non-profit university with a dedicated and accomplished faculty, and a student population recognized as among the most diverse in the nation. With its core campus in the heart of Honolulu’s business district, and campuses at Makapu‘u Point, Kāneʻohe and O‘ahu military bases, HPU provides students a distinct blend of small class sizes, hands-on learning opportunities, and global perspectives. HPU offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate programs for those seeking an educational adventure in the center of the Pacific Rim.
Photo courtesy David DeBalko/Villanova University.