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honorees
1977 - 1979

Past LeaderLuncheon Honorees

In sharing their leadership journey, our Leader Luncheon Academy of Honorees opened our eyes to the challenges of days past, the extraordinary progress made in Hawaii, and the legacy passed on to those women who would follow.

1970's

Barbara Joan Edwards
Monta Kinney*
Nora M. Kurosu
Audrey Mertz
Patricia Putman*
Cobey Black
Juliette May Fraser*
Betty Hirozawa
Dr. Adrienne Kaeppler
Dorothy Shimer*
Mary Bitterman, Ph.D.
Dorothy Ching
Billie Hauge
Laila Twigg-Smith*
Betty Vitousek

*Indicates Deceased





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barbara joan edwards - 1977

Barbara Joan Edwards served as the Community Relations Manager of the Hawaii Newspaper Agency at the time of her LeaderLuncheon award in 1977. 

Throughout her career, she was able to successfully combine newspaper and teaching, and was noted for her origination, development and administration of the “Newspaper in the Classroom” program in cooperation with State educational institutions.  This program now serves as a National Model.  She has conducted workshops for educators, both local and Mainland.

monta kinney* - 1977

Monta Kinney served as director of the Department of Neighborhood Development at Palama Settlement, and is cited for her contributions to Neighborhood Board 15 and its Human Resources Committee, the Kalihi-Palama Culture and Arts Project, and the Children’s Center.  Her past work with the Model Cities Education Task Force and the Welfare Division of the Health and Community Services Council of Hawaii spotlighted the needs and concerns of low-income groups and racial minorities.

For Monta and Palama Settlement, the 1970’s was a period of re-evaluation, adjustment, and growth, mainly due to the Trecker report (which called upon the settlement’s programs to be more people-centered rather than activity-centered, stressing human and community needs as opposed to uncoordinated, departmentalized activities) and the large-scale social and economic programs being implemented nationally.  Civil rights and anti-poverty legislation brought large amounts of federal monies to Palama Settlement for local programs geared to at-risk youth and community development.

Palama Settlement continues to exist as a nonprofit, nongovernmental agency dedicated to helping needy families and at-risk youths, in part because of Monta’s contributions and her desire to create change.

nora m. kurosu - 1977

In 1977, Nora Kurosu was the first woman to be honored by the YWCA for her accomplishment in the field of business.  As she worked her way up through on-the-job training with American Savings Bank, she became the first female branch manager in a male dominated banking field.  In 1977, women were just beginning the slow rise to leadership positions in areas of business, academics and the arts.  Nora believes, “We created our own barriers.  The challenges were great and the opportunities unlimited.” 

Nora began her career as a teller for American Savings Bank.  She was then transferred to the accounting department and eventually given the position of Branch Manager.  Nora says she could never say no to an offer.  Her positions evolved to the assistant vice president/branch manager and then to a vice president/department manager.  Nora served on the YMCA of Honolulu Metropolitan Board until her resignation after 30 years of service.  During that time, she also sat on the National Board for the YMCA and was part of the first group from Hawaii on the YMCA ‘cluster concept’.  In addition, she has held various positions in the Kapunahala Community Association.

Nora Kurosu has always accepted opportunities to grow.  She has an insatiable appetite to learn new things, and will take on new challenges whenever they come her way.  “Whenever a job had to be done at home, work or as a volunteer, it became a challenge for me to do and complete.  Something inside me gives me the wisdom and strength to begin the task and succeed.”  Nora believes that with all her accomplishments and future endeavors, she will create momentum for others to say “I can do it!”

Nora would love to see the collective power of women’s leadership come together to improve the education for our immigrant and low-income families.  She would also like to see women come together to provide solutions to Hawaii’s growing homeless population.

Nora Kurosu continues to have a positive influence in our communities.  She is a true inspiration to the women of Hawaii.

audrey mertz - 1977

Dr. Audrey W. Mertz was the chief of mental health services division of the Hawaii Department of Health when she was honored by the YWCA in 1977.  In addition to her work as a physician, she raised five children and served on boards of numerous social service and health-orientated organizations.  An active and outspoken proponent of women’s issues, she served as president of the local Chapters of both National Organizations for Women and the National Women’s Political Caucus. 

Dr. Mertz has authored and published many scientific articles, essays and letters.  She never hesitates to get involved with controversial issues and has written editorials about doctors sexually abusing their mentally ill patients. 

Audrey now lives in San Luis Obisbo, California and continues to serve the community as the AIDS Living Memorial Grove Coordinator, part of the larger San Luis Obisbo County AIDS Support Network.

patricia putman* - 1977

“She had that kind of driving intelligence that gets things done.  And she wasn’t into cooking and baking.”

Graduating from law school at UC-Berkeley in 1959, Patricia Putnam was one of seven women in a class of 180.  She then moved to Hawaii and immersed herself in the legal and medical communities with a mission to impact large-scale change at all levels of community.

Patricia became a voice for change, representing all individuals, especially those in need.  Patricia Putnam was the architect of Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act of 1974, which mandated health care for private sector workers and was the first of its kind in the nation.  She assisted in the formation of the Hawaii Rape Crisis Center.  She was the forerunner of domestic violence programs here in Hawaii and also helped draft legislation to recognize women’s changing roles.  As associate dean for Legal and Legislative Affairs at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine, she pushed to change the medical school program from an associates degree to a bachelors degree. 

Putman did not limit herself to helping the public.  She mentored young women who were secretaries, and many went on to law school.  “She treated them like daughters who needed a push,” said Terrence Rogers, former dean of the medical school at UH.  “She also had a good rapport with the medical students and mentored some of them as well, particularly women, and “they’ve done very well. She was one of the few people around UH who actually mentored young women.”

cobey black - 1978

Cobey Black is perhaps best known as a columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, where she interviewed over 3,000 celebrities and personalities.  She has had an exciting career that spanned the globe as a Woman’s Editor, Travel Editor, Columnist and contributing writer for numerous publications.  Cobey was also the publicist for Hawaii Five-O during the television series production in Hawaii.

She has interviewed all the U.S. presidents in her lifetime except the first (FDR) and the last (George W. Bush). She said the most quotable people were Truman Capote and Clare Boothe Luce. The shortest interview was Elisabeth Taylor.  The most difficult to interview were intellectuals.

Cobey Black once confessed that she was blessed with aural recall.  Her mind was like a tape recorder.  She could do an entire interview without taking notes, then go back and write down exactly what her celebrity had said.  Cobey had made up her mind to find the celebrities who came to Hawaii and interview them, and she created unique introductions to secure some of those interviews.

She has been an active member of many community organizations in Hawaii, including the State Commission on the Status of Women and the Vietnamese-American Culture and Education Foundation.  In addition, Cobey has created a scholarship fund (the Edwin and Cobey Black Scholarship) under the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (PAAC) in memory of her husband, Brigadier General Edwin F. Black – for one graduating high school student each year who is active in the PAAC club.  Her desire is to award the scholarship to students who are knowledgeable in international affairs and who will strive for global harmony as future leaders towards world peace.

Cobey has written several books, the most popular of which was Hawaii Scandal, regarding the Thalia Massie case in the 1930’s.

With six children that she raised with her husband, Cobey’s grandchildren are some of her greatest accomplishments and joys.

juliette may fraser* - 1978

Through her work as a painter, muralist, printmaker and illustrator, Juliette May Fraser created an artistic vision of Hawaii.  Her vision was authentic in spirit and creative in presentation and led to her status as Hawaii’s leading artist.  The YWCA recognized Juliette in 1978, for her creative contributions and because she elevated the level in which a woman could impact the artistic community:  she was the first president of the Hawaii Painters and Sculpture League.

Juliette May Fraser was born in 1887 in Honolulu.  After graduating from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she worked as an educator, following in the footsteps of her mother and father who came to the islands to teach.

“That was practically the only thing a woman could do then,” she told an interviewer a few years before her death in 1983.  However, her heart had been captured by art, so she saved her salary to study at the Art Students League in New York. 

She returned to Honolulu, teaching for a few more years before receiving a commission to paint a mural for Mrs. Charles Adams, grandmother of Ben Dillingham.  That started her on a lifelong path of painting murals, from the World’s Fair in San Francisco to Ipapandi Chapel in Greece, where her work was so beloved that the chapel’s street was named after her.  Juliette’s subdued yet powerful murals earned her the most acclaim, with commissions coming from all over the world.

In 1934, Fraser was approached by the Federal Work Progress Administration to paint a series of murals for the Hawai’i State Library.  She worked for $35 per week for three months until funds ran out.  Then she continued to work for no pay until the pieces were completed.  The murals, still on display, reflect the artist’s lifelong interest in Native Hawaiian legend and other cultural themes.  Fraser worked in a variety of media, from linoleum cut to ceramic, to oils.  In addition to numerous venues in Hawaii, Juliette’s work is displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. 

Fraser’s work wasn’t flashy.  In fact, critics described her art as “deceptively simple.”  And the tiny, unassuming woman could be spotted on the island, usually dressed in a palaka shirt and slacks she sewed herself.

betty hirozawa - 1978

Throughout her distinguished career, Betty Hirozawa has helped define the role of women in business and community in Hawaii.  A true pioneer in business, she was elected as a full-time director of Castle and Cooke, Inc in 1979.  She was one of only three women to ever hold this position at the time.  She also served as vice president - administrator for the Hawaii Employers Council, chaired the Hawaii Joint Council on Economic Education and was a trustee for the Hawaii Public Employees Health Fund.  As part of her commitment to women’s advancement, she was active with the YWCA and served on the Fernhurst Residence Committee on Administration.

Today, Betty continues to contribute to women’s issues and to the community at large.  She currently serves as Vice President of The Japanese Women’s Society of Honolulu (JWS), which was founded in 1954 as an educational and service organization.  The JWS mission is to promote culture and provide education and quality services to the community by responding to the changing needs of society, addressing various issues that pertain to aging, with an emphasis on women. 

In addition to the JWS, Betty volunteers with the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (the “Chamber”) as the chairperson of its human resources committee.  As chairperson, she is responsible for maintaining professional staff to carry out the Chamber’s administrative functions with maximum efficiency and maintaining sound employment policies and staff procedures -- to include fair employee compensation and benefit programs.

dr. adrienne kaeppler - 1978

Adrienne L. Kaeppler is a social/cultural anthropologist and Curator of Oceanic Ethnology (Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Guinea, and Australia) at the National Museum of Natural History/National Museum of Man, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. 

Dr. Kaeppler was honored by the YWCA in 1978 as a leading female scientist focused on the understanding of native cultures.  Before coming to the Smithsonian, she was an anthropologist on the staff of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawai’i and a member of the State Council on Hawaiian Heritage, the Commission for the Preservation and Study of Hawaiian Language, Art and Culture.

Her research focuses on material culture and the visual and performing arts in their cultural contexts, including traditional, social and political structures and modern cultural identity.  She did field research in many parts of the Pacific, including long-term research in Tonga and Hawaii.  She helped to establish the Tongan National Museum and oversaw the first two exhibitions there, in 1998 and 1999.

Adrienne has taught anthropology, ethnomusicology, anthropology of dance, and art history at the University of Hawaii; the University of Maryland, College Park; The Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Johns Hopkins University; and the University of California, Los Angeles.

She has been published widely, bringing the beauty of the visual and performing arts to an English speaking audience.  Her recent books include Poetry in Motion: Studies in Tongan Dance and Hula Pahu: Hawaiian Drum Dances (both published in 1993); the Polynesian and Micronesian sections of Oceanic Art (published in French, German, and English, 1993-1997); and From the Stone Age to the Space Age in 200 Years: Tongan Art and Society on the Eve of the Millennium (1999).  She co-edited the Oceania volume of Garland World History of Music, published in 1998, and was part of the team that produced Songs and Poems of Queen Salote (2004).

dorothy shimer* - 1978

Dorothy Shimer played an active leadership role in the United Church of Christ locally and nationally, as well as past vice president of the Hawaii Council of Churches.  A member of the National Board of Directors for American Association of University Women (AAUW), she was also the founder and past president of the Maui Branch and an active member on Oahu.  The AAUW’s focus is women in education; education equity and accessibility to all women.  She served as
vice-chairperson on the State Commission on the Status of Women.  Dorothy planned and directed the Pacific Basin Conference at the East-West Center on “Culturally Conditioned Views of the Role of Women.”

“The Rice Bowl Women: Writings by and about Women of China and Japan” (1982) was an effort to present women’s experiences from two cultures where the rice bowl is a traditional symbol of womanhood.  The collection is mostly writings by women, but does include some works by men about women.  Dorothy edited the collection and wrote an introduction and notes that provided cultural context for the prose of each time period. 

The AAUW Dorothy Shimer Scholarship was established in her honor to financially support and encourage women to attain higher education.  Dorothy joined the YWCA LeaderLuncheon Academy in 1978.

mary bitterman, ph.d. - 1979

At the time of her induction into the YWCA Academy in 1979, Mary Bitterman  was Executive Director of Hawaii Public Broadcasting Authority (Hawaii Public Television, KHET).  At the time, she was the only woman executive director of a television station in Hawaii.

She currently serves as chair of PBS’ Board of Directors and is president of The Bernard Osher Foundation, which seeks to improve quality of life through scholarships arts and humanities grants. Though she resides in San Francisco now, she is quoted as saying, “I am and always will be a resident of Hawaii.”

After her reign at KHET and before she left for the mainland, Mary was the Voice of America International Broadcasting Network director for the last year of President Jimmy Carter’s Administration. She also served three years as the director of the Department of Commerce and Commercial Affairs and as director of the East-West Center’s Institute of Culture and Communication.

Her leadership in Hawaii included membership in the Honolulu Community Media Council, board member of the Bank of Hawaii and director of the
Institute Culture and Communications at the East-West Center.  She was
the first woman director of the Dillingham Corporation and contributed to the development of the Waipahu Cultural Garden Park and the Blood Bank of Hawaii.

Mary has produced several documentaries for public television and has written numerous papers on telecommunications development and the role of media in developing societies.  She is an Honorary Member of the National Presswomen’s Federation and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

On the keys to good leadership, Mary follows these guidelines, “larger world view, accountability, respect for colleagues and customers.“

dorothy ching - 1979

Ambitious and intelligent, Dorothy K. Ching rose to executive vice president for Bank of Hawaii at a time when few women held prominent positions in the banking industry.  She began as a secretary with the bank and was appointed its first woman assistant vice president in 1964.  Five years later, she was named one of the first two women vice presidents of the Bank.  In 1969, she authored the first Affirmative Action Program in the state for the Bank of Hawaii. 

Always engaged in the community, Dorothy was appointed the first layperson and woman on the The Disciplinary Council of Hawaii Supreme Court, and served as commissioner for the State Ethics Commission. 

Dorothy was honored at the 1979 YWCA LeaderLuncheon.  Today she is retired and supports various organizations including UH and Hawaii Community Foundation.  She is a charter member of the Hawaii Chapter of the National Association of Bank Women holds and membership in Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hawaii.

billie hauge - 1979

Billie Hauge was the director of the Waianae Office of the Honolulu Community Action Program when she was honored by the YWCA in 1979.  Her office worked with low income groups on the entire Waianae Coast, from Nanakuli to Makaha.  She chaired the Waianae Neighborhood Board as well as the Oahu Certificate of Need Review Committee of the State of Health Planning Agency.  

In addition to her professional community work, Billie served on the Boards of Child and Family Services and the Hawaiian Heritage Cultural Center.  She focused on bringing Waianae Coast families together to address problems in the public schools.

laila twigg-smith* - 1979

Laila Twigg-Smith (1944-1998) was recognized by the YWCA as a vital supporter of artists and the arts in Hawaii.  She was a dynamic personality
who brought a strong individual philosophy to collecting that encompassed a remarkable range of styles and visions.

She served as the director of the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) from 1974 to 1983, organizing many exhibitions by artists of Hawaii and helping to develop The Honolulu Advertiser Collection.  The success and growth of CAC’s programs led to the founding of The Contemporary Museum, which Laila spearheaded with her second husband, Thurston Twigg-Smith.  Laila had a keen interest in building the museum’s collection and she donated art from her personal collection.

Born in Dresden, Germany near the end of World War II to Latvian refugee parents, she immigrated with her family to California after the war and grew up in the Bay Area.  Trained as an artist, she graduated in 1967 with a BA from San Jose State University.  She came to Hawaii in 1969 with her first husband, sculptor and University of Hawaii Professor Fred Roster, and taught art classes at the Academy of Arts Center.

Laila loved to share her collection with others.  She frequently lent works and opened her home to groups and individuals, delighting in giving lively tours and discussing her collection and the works’ personal significance to her.

At her bequest, Laila established a fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Laila Art Fund.  The funds mission is to nurture and promote Hawaii as a center for the exchange of contemporary arts and artists, through programs and initiatives that offer opportunities for artists to immerse themselves in different environments, absorb various influences, and realize fresh visions.  The fund also serves to bring artists, curators, educators and critics to Hawaii to interact with the community.

The grants awarded by the Laila Art Fund perpetuate a legacy of joyous support for creative endeavors by and for the people of Hawaii.

betty vitousek - 1979

“Brilliant Bette Belle”

The Honorable Betty Vitousek impacted the male-dominated legal world in Hawaii and helped established a powerful legal entity for people and families in need.  Because of her courage and determination, she paved the way for other women to break boundaries and impact lives. 

Judge Betty Vitousek was vital to the movement for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (“Legal Aid”).  In July 1950, she wrote to the Bar Association of Hawaii, proposing the establishment of a society to make legal services more accessible to those persons without the means to afford legal counsel.  Due in large part to Betty’s efforts and foresight, Legal Aid was incorporated that year.  Today Legal Aid is the largest and oldest provider of legal services in the state, responding to 19,000 inquiries and serving 10,000 individuals each year.

Betty has served as Senior Judge of the Family Court, Chairperson of the State’s Board of Family Court Judges and Executive Director of the Hawaii State Bar Association.  When she was recognized at the 1979 YWCA LeaderLuncheon, Betty was the only woman serving as a circuit court judge in Hawaii.  Since that time, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii.  More recently, she was designated as one of the “Legal Legends of Hawaii” by the Hawaii State Bar Association. 

Betty has served on numerous Boards, including Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, Mental Health Association, and the Hawaii International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee.  She strives to be involved with issues impacting
women and families, such as a court-sponsored program called “The Divorce Experience,” which she initiated to help adults and children successfully navigate the divorce process.

An excerpt from Betty Vitousek’s college yearbook depicts the perceived aspiration of intelligent women at that time:  “Brilliant Bette Belle has been in the limelight ever since she was a freshman(;)…top grades and top activities have been balanced by a charm that has made her every man’s ideal.”  (From the University of Washington yearbook, 1938.)

Honorees 1977 - 1979
Honorees 1980 - 1989
Honorees 1990 - 1999
Honorees 2000 - 2011
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