2013 Distinguished Alumni Award
BEd in Education, 1962, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
MA in Organizational Communication, 1977, University of Kansas
Col Edwin Gayagas (Ret) enlisted in the Hawai‘i National Guard when he was only 16. Born and raised on Kaua‘i, he graduated from UH and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1962. He led a medical platoon in the 101st Airborne Division and prepared Rangers for potential combat at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Gayagas, who parachuted from aircraft 32 times, served in Vietnam during the war, and also in Germany and Japan. He was a battalion commander in Korea, and he completed his service as senior logistician at Tripler Army Medical Center. He earned numerous awards during his 34-year career, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters. Gayagas was appointed military representative to the School Advisory Council by Governor John Waihe‘e in 1987.
After retiring as an Army colonel in 1989, Gayagas started a general contracting and consulting company. He was a senior consultant during the 1994 renovation of the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific. Since retiring again in 1995 he has been an active community volunteer, devoting much of his time to UH.
Gayagas attended UH Mānoa as a scholarship athlete, lettered in basketball and track, and was a UH Army ROTC cadet. He remains a strong supporter and advocate of both ROTC and athletics. A UHAA life member, he founded its UH Army ROTC Alumni Association chapter and has been president for 15 years. He is also active in the UH Mānoa Letterwinners Club chapter and has served on its board. He mentors ROTC cadets and active duty soldiers and assists with the Wounded Warriors Project. He raised funds for UH’s Fallen Warriors and helped seek honorary degrees for UH students killed during WWII. Gayagas has served as executive director of Nā Koa Football Club and has helped with fundraising for football and women’s track and field. He has also coordinated several UH Mānoa Homecoming events.
Gayagas is a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He ran in the 29th annual Great Aloha Run – he has run in all 29 – and is preparing to compete in golf, bowling, swimming and riflery at the 2013 National Veteran’s Golden Age Games. Gayagas and wife Norma have been married 52 years and have a son and two daughters. He is proud that with his son, daughter and two sons-in-law, he and his family have collectively served our country for more than 108 years.