Sumi Makey, the former dean of students at the East-West Center who continued to support the center in retirement, died Sunday at the Kahala Nui retirement home at the age of 93.
One of the students Makey mentored over her 24 years at the East-West Center is current East-West Center President Richard R. Vuylsteke, who said in a statement:
“I join the East-West Center ‘ohana in mourning the loss of Dean Sumi Makey. I first met Sumi in June 1970 as a student in the Center’s Open Grants program, and later had the privilege of working as her assistant. She was a mentor, friend and inspiration — and countless others can say the same. She made time for people. She listened carefully and gave solid advice. She had high expectations of herself and those around her, and her enthusiasm for doing good was contagious. She made the world a better place, and we shall miss her.”
Sumi Yoshizawa was born in Spreckelsville, Maui, on Jan. 23, 1926. She was the youngest of five children born to immigrant parents from Kumamoto, Japan, and outlived all of her siblings.
She studied at the University of Hawaii and Teachers College at Columbia University and earned a Master’s of Arts degree in counseling and guidance. She worked at the Hawaii Department of Education between 1948 and 1951 before joining the University of Illinois and Ohio State University as a counselor.
She then spent nine years working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., where she met her late husband, Henry “Hank” Makey. They had no children.
Makey later returned to Hawaii and joined the East-West Center in 1964 as an administrator. The East-West Center said she eventually played a major role in developing its first student programs.
The center credited her with being a driving force in establishing the Open Grants program during the 1970s that expanded the types of fields that could be studied.
Makey became the East-West Center’s first dean of the then-newly created Office of Students Affairs and Open Grants in 1979.
The job took Makey to China and Bhutan, which led to East-West Center invitations to students from both countries.
The East-West Center quoted Makey as saying:
“I think it’s only through living and working together and studying together that people are more sensitive to what others are thinking. They form friendships that often last a lifetime. You can resolve problems more easily in an environment where you have respect for each other and respect for other cultures.”
After she retired in 1988, Makey made donations to support the East-West Center’s Arts Program and endowed the Sumi Makey Scholars Award in Arts and Humanities, which supports female participants from Southeast Asia.
In 2014, the East-West Center’s alumni association named Makey an Outstanding Volunteer — and the Friends of the East-West Center awarded her with its “Friend for Life” award.
Survivors include three nephews, three nieces and eight grand nieces and grand nephews.
A celebration of Makey’s life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 3 at Kahala Nui’s Diamond Head Room.