Simeon and Carolyn Acoba endow UH Law School with scholarship

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Margot Schrire, (808) 956-6774
Director of Communications, UH Foundation
Posted: Mar 9, 2015

Students take pledge at the Supreme Court during orientation week.
Students take pledge at the Supreme Court during orientation week.

Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon Acoba Jr. (retired) and his wife, Carolyn C. Acoba, recently endowed a new scholarship at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

The scholarship will go toward tuition payments at the Law School, with a preference each year for a student from a public high school.

"Judge Simeon Acoba and his wife Carolyn Acoba's generous gift to the William S. Richardson School of Law is especially meaningful because it comes from University of Hawai'i alumni who have gone on to highly successful careers and leadership roles in our community,” said UH System President David Lassner. “Most recently, Judge Acoba was selected to serve on the UH Board of Regents. The Acobas are paying it forward by investing in UH and our students who might not otherwise have the means to attend law school and realize their dreams.  We are immensely grateful."

The Acobas’ gift is designed to help those who otherwise might find it difficult to pursue their dreams. Both Acobas are products of public school education, and they recognize how much tuition assistance can make a significant difference.

As a Farrington High School graduate, Judge Acoba was the first in his family to go to college. “I attended the University of Hawai‘i on a scholarship,” he said, “and that really helped a great deal.”

Carolyn Acoba is a Roosevelt High graduate and a UH undergraduate who earned a degree in linguistics from the University of California-Berkeley, and later a teaching degree from the UHM College of Education. She spent her professional career as an elementary school teacher in Aina Haina and Niu Valley before retiring in 2007. She was often assigned to teach classes of gifted and talented children.

“A lot of very talented children come through the program and we know the background of their families. For immigrant families especially, it’s that much more challenging (to pay for advanced degrees),” she said.

Said Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman, “We are deeply grateful to UH Mānoa graduates who give back to their alma mater.  The Acobas are shining examples of alumni with roots in public schools who, in turn, are helping to realize the dreams of public high school graduates seeking the pursuit of legal studies at our fine law school.”  

Dean Avi Soifer expressed the Law School’s great appreciation for the Acobas and for their very generous gift. “The Acobas have long stood out as leaders in the pursuit of justice through both law and education,” Soifer said, “and thus their gift’s commitment to future generations is wonderfully fitting as well as tremendously helpful to those who otherwise might well not be able to afford to go to law school.”

Associate Justice Acoba retired last year from the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, having served since May 2000. He received his BA degree from UHM with Honors, and his JD degree from the Northwestern University School of Law. After law school, he clerked for the late Chief Justice William S. Richardson, and he was admitted to practice in the federal and Hawai‘i courts in 1969.

Acoba has long been a staunch advocate of equal justice, and he was the first chair of the Hawai‘i Access to Justice Commission when it was created by the high court in 2008.  The commission has been instrumental in focusing attention on needs of the underserved, including helping create a series of "self-help" centers throughout the state at which volunteer attorneys provide their services free of charge.

“In our democracy which is guided by the rule of law,” said Acoba, “it is essential that a continuing rational and critical assessment be made of our laws to further the goal of fair and equal treatment for all.  The Law School stands as an independent and progressive institution dedicated to these purposes.”

Before his appointment to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, Acoba was an associate judge at the Intermediate Court of Appeals from 1994-2000; a Circuit Court judge from 1980-1994, handling both criminal and civil cases; and a per diem District Court judge from 1979-1980.

Acoba was also an adjunct professor at Richardson Law School in the 1970s, and is currently a Lecturer in Law at the Law School.  He remains active in the leadership of the Access to Justice Commission. He was named to the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents by former Governor Abercrombie in October 2014, pending Senate confirmation.

 About William S. Richardson School of Law:

  • The entering class in 2014 was almost double the class of a year earlier, with a total of 123 students enrolled in the day and evening JD programs.
  • Within 9 months of graduation, 87.5 percent of the Class of 2013 were employed or pursuing advanced degrees.
  • 26 percent of the 2013 graduates are in private practice; 24 percent in judicial clerkships; 20 percent in other government positions; 7 percent in business or industry; 6.7 percent in public interest; and 3 percent in academia.
  • U.S. News & World Report ranks UH Law School the 5th least expensive of the nation’s top law schools, and one of the top 10 law schools where graduates have the least debt.

    To find out how you can make a gift to support the students and programs at the William S. Richardson School of Law, please contact Ashley Morehouse at (808) 956-6797 or ashley.morehouse@uhfoundation.orgYou can also make a gift online at


The University of Hawai’i William S. Richardson School of Law offers an outstanding foundation in American law within a highly supportive environment. It also specializes in environmental law, indigenous rights, and the law of Asian Nations. Forty-one years old this year, Richardson Law School has graduated more than 3,000 students who now serve prominently in their communities.

The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.

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