The East-West Center Board of Governors announced today that it has selected Suzanne Vares-Lum to serve as the institution’s next president. Vares-Lum will be both the first Native Hawaiian and the first woman to hold the position.
Vares-Lum is a former Army Major General who retired in April after 34 years in the Army. She was born in Wahiawa and commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant from University of Hawaii-Manoa’s Army ROTC program. She served as an intelligence officer during the Cold War in Germany and in Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard and was the first Native Hawaiian woman to become a general.
She was most recently assigned to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Camp Smith, where she travelled extensively across the region meeting with officials and dignitaries in Asia and Pacific Island nations amid regional tensions. Both the U.S. and Chinese military have sought to solidify their positions and influence in the region in recent years amid competition over critical trade routes and waterways.
“I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to continue to advance the vision of the East-West Center,” Vares-Lum said in a press release. “I truly believe that EWC, and Hawaii, play a unique role in bridging East and West to address the critical issues that will impact our future generations”
Born out of a UH-Manoa faculty initiative in 1959, the East-West Center was formally established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to strengthen American academic, cultural and political ties with nations throughout Asia and Pacific through exchanges and research.
Vares-Lum replaces Richard Vuylsteke, who has served in the top post for five years. Vuylsteke will be starting a faculty position at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Waikiki after his departure from the East-West Center.