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A life of learning – and sharing

PUHI — Helen Cox might be done as chancellor of Kauai Community College, but she’s still going to be around to lend a hand around campus.

“At the moment I am trying very hard to not over-commit until I know where I can find the most joy and make the most difference,” Cox said. “I will help the new chancellor, Dr. Joseph Daisy, settle in, but don’t want to be overbearing as he charts the college’s future.”

After 11 years at the helm of KCC, Cox has retired, and has passed the reins to Daisy, who had been heading up a college in Micronesia and originally hails from Boston.

Once she helps Daisy with that transition, Cox and her husband John are off to the mainland to see family and to explore the great outdoors.

“We will be backpacking part of the Appalachian Trail this spring,” she said. “I also am spending time playing musical instruments — ukulele, guitar, and Mark Taylor is refurbishing my piano — gardening, swimming, paddling, hiking, writing.”

Cox is also still sitting on a few boards which already occupy her time, including the Hawaii Medical Service Association Foundation Board and Keiki to Career.

“The latter, particularly, brings me great joy,” Cox said. “I am also a core member of the Climate Coalition, and plan to be more involved in helping the island address climate change.”

Cox came to Kauai after serving as the associate vice president for general and international education at one of the largest community colleges in the country, Salt Lake Community College.

Oahu born and raised, Cox left the island for college and never moved back. She spent every summer on Kauai when she was growing up, and said it “seemed like a dream come true” when she got the opportunity to lead KCC 11 years ago.

Looking back over those years, she says there were too many positive happenings to list. Some of the highlights, however include:

w Starting the Saturday Kauai Community Market as a partnership with the Kauai County Farm Bureau;

w Increasing the number of Native Hawaiian students who attended and completed college;

w Adding an associate’s degree in natural sciences program for students interested in engineering, sciences and math;

w Ulutopia — a partnership with the National Tropical Botanical Garden to look at best growing conditions for ulu, or breadfruit;

w Early college — high school students can try out college before they arrive and discover if they are college material;.

w Expanding international education so that Kauai students learn more about other cultures;

w Creation of Ho‘iouluwehi: The Innovative and Sustainable Living Institute;

w An increase in experiential, place-based learning in partnership with community organizations.

“So many!” Cox said. “This just scratches the surface, and these happened because of our dedicated faculty and staff.”

Cox said she has a few hopes for the direction KCC takes going forward. Some of those include responding to climate change, finding ways to meet the needs of students who can’t come to campus and continuing to support students to be come successful.

“We have an obligation to our students to prepare them for the world and work they will have, and to our community to be part of solutions,” Cox said. “I love the move to more hands-on, experiential, place-based learning, and hope it continues to grow. “

Jan. 29 is the community’s’ chance to say “a hui hou” (until we meet again) to Cox and to support The Innovative and Sustainable Living Institute of Kauai in a retirement celebration that includes a buffet dinner at Kilohana Plantation’s luau pavilion.

Tickets are $50 for students, $100 for individuals and $1,000 for a table of 10. Register by Jan. 27. For information, email


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or
Source: The Garden Island

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