The next time traffic has you idling along Kaahumanu Avenue on the Wailuku side of Kahului, take a look at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus. In the daytime, the campus is a parklike oasis of green. At night, the campus glows under a constellation of low-key security lights.
A cluster of one-room, rock-wall hale and the old science building are legacies. The newest, most forward-looking part of the campus is on the makai side. Trees are small but the buildings are new and very businesslike.
Maui finally has its own four-year degree institution - not the first, though.
The school began in 1931 as Maui Vocational School, a place to acquire hands-on skills at a time when one job was a career.
In the late 1930s, Maui Vocational students built a seagoing boat used to transport cattle and horses between Maui and a ranch on Kahoolawe. Christopher Kamamo Cockett taught machine shop from 1944 to 1964, bridging the school's next incarnation. It became Maui Technical School in 1958.
During a 1985 interview, Cockett showed off a handmade deep-sea fishing reel. At the time, there were no commercially available reels big enough to handle deep-diving fish so he had his students make one that held 1,000 yards of high-test line.
MVS and MTS targeted, according to Cockett, young men and women who could not go on to higher education. That did not mean a school for dummies. "To learn a trade, you first have to know how to read and write and figure," Cockett said.
One student at Maui Vocational learned to weld and work metal under the instruction of Duncan Sinclair. What he learned then and later at a tech school on the Mainland allowed Raymond "Red" Texeira to become a junior college instructor and homegrown artist on the same campus.
In 1966, Maui Technical School became part of the University of Hawaii system. Two years later, Texeira was asked to teach welding at Maui Community College. While teaching at MCC, Texeira was encouraged by faculty member Marian Blanton to turn bits of metal into sculptures. Texeira became a noted artist.
Texeira's story is a prime example of how education can lead to unexpected personal transformations.
In the early part of the last century, many Mauians honed skills by taking correspondence courses. They were a little like going to school on the Internet but the lessons came to the island by snail mail. The courses included nearly every trade that could be imagined and some that were unlikely.
The longtime dean of Maui's horse community took one of those courses. Joaquine "Jack" Freitas had a proven natural talent and decades of experience in 1936 when he took a Professor Barry course in training horses.
During a 1986 interview, Freitas said, "Before I took the course, I was killing myself. I felt sorry for the horses I trained." The extra education allowed him to become a kind of horse whisperer.
Another way to learn was to be an apprentice. Even today, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. often finds itself training technicians who go on to work as building and maintenance engineers in the resorts. Many Maui sons and daughters followed in their fathers' and mothers' footsteps.
The first community college on Maui was located about halfway between Paia and Makawao. Maunaolu Community College began in 1950 on the campus originally built for Maunaolu Seminary in the 1930s. The seminary closed when the military took over the facility during WWII.
Maunaolu was also the island's first four-year-degree school, but for only one class which graduated in 1971. In the 1960s, Maunaolu taught some 200 or more Micronesians.
There might have been another college campus on Maui. In the early 1970s, Chaminade wanted to build a four-year campus on the island. The state Board of Land and Resources was asked for a change in zoning for some 400 acres of land between Kahekili Highway and the West Maui Mountains near Maalaea - roughly the same area now proposed for a large housing subdivision.
The Chaminade effort failed. Opponents had no objections to the school but didn't want to lose plantation jobs by taking prime agricultural land out of production. Hmmm.
Today, there is no question that just about any kind of job requires education that goes beyond high school. For those Mauians financially unable or unwilling to go off island for that education, there is the University of Hawaii Maui College and its many options for the future's many career changes.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.