Ceremony Speakers
104th Annual Commencement Exercises
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Stan Sheriff Center

Undergraduate Ceremony Speaker

Sam Kass

In 2009, a newly elected President Obama asked Sam Kass to move from Chicago to the White House and continue his work as personal chef to the family. Kass remained personal chef to the First Family until December of 2014. During his tenure inside the White House, Kass took on several additional initiatives including roles as executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign and senior White House policy advisor for nutrition policy. In these capacities, Kass led the First Lady’s work to help America raise a healthier generation of kids and ensure that kids have the opportunity for the long, healthy lives they deserve. As senior policy advisor on nutrition, he also advised on food and nutrition issues beyond “Let’s Move!”

One of the First Lady’s longest-serving advisors, Kass previously served as senior policy advisor for healthy food initiatives. Kass helped the First Lady create the first major vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden. To date, the garden has yielded thousands of pounds of produce that has been used to feed event guests, staff and the First Family at the White House, with further harvests donated to local food shelters.

Kass joined the White House kitchen staff under Executive Chef Cris Comerford’s leadership as assistant chef and, in 2010, became food initiative coordinator. Kass is a Chicago native and college athlete, played baseball for the University of Chicago, and graduated with a degree in U.S. history. He worked at 312 and Avec in Chicago and was trained as a chef by one of Austria’s greatest chefs, Chef Christian Domschitz in Vienna.

In 2011, Fast Company named Kass to their list of 100 Most Creative People, and in 2012, Kass was named to the inaugural class of chefs in the American Chef Corps, which is dedicated to promoting diplomacy through culinary initiatives.

Kass lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, MSNBC television anchor Alex Wagner.

Advanced Degree Ceremony Speaker

The Honorable David Ige

Son of Hawaii

David Ige was born and raised in Pearl City and is the fifth of six sons of Tokio and Tsurue Ige. During World War II, Tokio served in the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war, his father worked as a steelworker on construction projects while his mother worked as a nurse and dental hygienist. Tokio Ige passed away in 2005 at the age of 86. Tsurue, now retired, resides in Pearl City.

David Ige attended public schools in Pearl City – Pearl City Elementary School, Highlands Intermediate School, and Pearl City High School. He also participated in community sports, beginning with eight years of playing in the Pearl City Little League. At the newly built Pearl City High School, Ige excelled in many activities. In his junior year, he was elected Student Body Vice President, and he served as Senior Class President the following year. Ige also led his varsity tennis team to a championship and was honored as the “Scholar-Athlete of the Year.” He graduated fifth in his class of more than 500 students in 1975.

Ige then attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. While at UH, he served as Student Body Secretary and an officer of several honor societies as well as Treasurer and Vice-President of his fraternity, Phi Delta Sigma.

Most importantly, UH is where Ige met his wife, Dawn, with whom he now shares three children, Lauren, Amy, and Matthew.

Successful Engineer

After college, while working for GTE Hawaiian Tel, Ige took graduate courses at UH and earned a master of Business Administration degree in Decisions Sciences. In 1986, Hawaii Business magazine named him one of the university’s Top 10 MBA students.

He went on to become a successful electrical engineer and project manager with a 34-year career devoted to information technology, telecommunications, networks, and responsible public policy.

Prior to being elected governor of Hawaii, Ige served as Program/Project Manager with Robert A. Ige and Associates, Inc., Vice President of Engineering at NetEnterprise, and Project Engineer/Senior Principal Engineer at Pihana Pacific, which established the first world-class data center and carrier-neutral Internet exchange in Hawaii and the Pacific. Before that, he worked as an engineer for GTE Hawaiian Tel for more than 18 years.

As an engineer, he knows and understands the role technology has in our lives and in the state’s information and telecommunications policies. In the Legislature, he co-authored the Hawaii Telecommunications and Information Industries Act that established the state information network and created the Hawaii Information Network Corporation. He has also been at the center of Hawaii’s efforts to diversify its economy. Ige was responsible for establishing seed capital and venture capital programs, software development initiatives, and technology transfer programs.