Internationalization of CCH (2004)

Ross R. Allen (1957-1966):
1957 registrar recalls internationalization of CCH

Ross R. Allen (pictured at right), who joined the Church College of Hawaii administration in 1957 as the registrar and director of admissions, claims to be “the first person who ever applied for a job” at the university, compared with the original faculty, “who were recruited.”

“I learned about Church College of Hawaii before it existed,” said Allen, explaining he was drafted right out of high school in Salt Lake City, went into the Air Force and was sent to Japan in the occupation forces right after World War II. “After about a year in Japan, Edward L. Clissold came and reopened the mission, which had been closed since before World War I. I worked with the missionaries, and got very well acquainted with President Clissold.”

After returning home, Allen enrolled at the University of Utah. “One day we got a contact from people who had been in Japan and wanted to have a reunion with President Clissold. When we met, he asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I was planning on being a teacher. He said, ‘You ought to consider Hawaii.’ This was in the very early planning stages of Church College.”

“He also said the plan [at that point] was for the school to be the last two years of high school, and the first two years of college,” Allen continued. “Hawaii had a strong tradition of private high schools.”

In 1956, after earning a bachelor’s in math education, a master’s in educational administration from the University of Utah, teaching, and starting on a doctorate in supervision and curriculum, Allen met President Clissold at another reunion. He told him, “I’m ready to apply for that job. Who do I write? He wrote down the name and address of Rueben D. Law.”

He received a phone call after April conference 1957 from President Law and asked his wife if she wanted to go to Hawaii. He started at CCH that fall as registrar and director of admissions. “When I came there were about 250 students.”

“That’s when they were just starting to make contacts with Church areas throughout the Pacific. They had one or two students from the South Pacific before, so that became my job,” said Allen, who also eventually taught math classes, night classes for some of the labor missionaries, and was instrumental in setting up the secondary education program.

Allen said he’ll always remember “a new student from Samoa, Pitone Ioane (’61, Social Sciences education),” whose story became a prototype of other South Pacific students.

“He was a guy who had completed all of the government schooling available in Western Samoa, but he had a craving for more education. When the Church built Mapusaga High School in American Samoa, he went there and joined the Church, but was afraid to tell his parents at the time.”

“Later, he decided he had to tell them, so he went home for Christmas break, but his family had left all this things in the road. His mother told him she never wanted to see him again.” Ioane eventually reconciled with his family, who made him their matai [chief]; but ironically, his mother had gone blind before she next met her son.

“At that time Church College was relatively unknown. The percentage of LDS in Hawaii that went on to higher education was really low, and the percentage of young men who went on missions was also very low. Part of my job, since I didn’t have a teaching load, was to go out to the different islands. We let the Church people know we were going to be there. They would have us speak in sacrament meetings where we would tell them about the college. We would also visit high schools.”

“For example, Ishmael Stagner, who had been a student body president at Kamehameha School for Boys, was one of those successfully recruited. At Waimea High School on Kauai we offered Alan Barcarse a scholarship, and he wasn’t even a member of the Church. He was here for a year, joined the Church, and went on a mission to Japan.”

“When he came back from his mission, he asked me, ‘Would you sponsor a student from Japan?’ and I said sure. Toyoko Komo (’63), who went on to marry Barcarse, was one of the first Japanese nationals to come to CCH. She and [BYU-Hawaii Japanese language professor] Katsuhiro Kajiyama (’63), who graduated from BYU in Provo in 1967 and returned to CCH to teach, came at the same time.”

Allen’s wife, Maureen, recalled she and her family were assigned to live in a house on Kamehameha Highway near the current shopping center. “Laie was small and intimate in those days. It was like one big happy family, and we did a lot of things together,” she said. “We’d have faculty parties at Kekela [now Kokololio Beach Park]: Everybody knew everybody.”

Allen added that when school officials “moved war surplus houses onto Kulanui street, we bought one of them for $7,500 in 1959. It’s still there.”

“We were here when the labor missionaries built all the new buildings and President McKay dedicated them [on December 17, 1958].”

The dedication “was a very significant event,” Allen said, indicating he could still see in his mind “the elementary school children holding the long garlands of flowers on Kulanui Street, from the intersection, up to the campus.”

Allen explained that the labor missionaries had been under great pressure to install the mosaic mural of Elder David O. McKay observing the flag-raising at Laie School they had ordered from Italy in time for the dedication ceremony. They were trying to surprise President McKay, who didn’t know about the signature mural that still graces the McKay Building.

“They got the shipment way late, because there was a shipping strike, which delayed it even more. They worked the last seven or eight days around the clock, and got it done the day before the dedication. They had a big canvas hanging over it.”

“My assignment was to greet President McKay near the mural and direct him to the auditorium. When he looked up and saw it, he said, ‘Brother Allen, can I just sit here and collect my thoughts.’ He was so emotional. He didn’t want to face anybody until he had gained his composure. He was really touched.”

“Just before the dedication, CCH became a four-year college, with the first program in teacher education. I resigned as registrar and applied for teaching. I helped start the teacher education program in secondary. Bob Laird was doing elementary, and Dr. Billie Hollingshead was in charge of both of us,” Allen said.

He recalled that Dr. Billie, as everyone called her, inspired him to complete his doctoral degree. She even received permission from the University of Utah to administer his exams in the old Temple View Apartments.

“She did a similar thing on my comprehensives,” he continued. “It was not common in those days to go back to the mainland, and long-distance calls were almost unheard of.”

“The public school people were really behind our new teacher education program, especially when we started having student teachers, because the University of Hawaii only worked with high schools in their immediate area in those days. We contacted high schools all over. They were so excited and welcomed us openly.”

Allen added that the Northwestern Association, largely based on Dr. Billie’s report, investigated CCH “and gave us accreditation before we even had any graduates.”

“We had education majors in math, English, industrial arts, science and P.E., under coach Al Lolotai. Ishmael and Pitone Ioane, for example, were among the first two CCH graduates and non-Caucasian teachers at Mapusaga High School.”

Allen missed participating in the opening of the Polynesian Cultural Center because he was on sabbatical in England studying the British educational system, “because many of the island countries where our students came from used that model.”

In 1966, Allen left Laie to accept a position at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, where he and Maureen still live. “Learning more about the Polynesian people changed our lives,” she said.

“Building on what she said, I forced them to do a workshop at Utah State on cross-cultural education. I ended up teaching it more than I taught math education. That changed me professionally: I was a pioneer in cross-cultural education.”

The Allens, who spoke so glowingly about Hawaii to their ward members and neighbors in Logan, conducted tours to Hawaii from 1970-85 that, of course, included several days in Laie.

After retiring from Utah State in 1992, Allen taught for a year in Japan, for another year in Laos on a Fulbright lectureship, and spent a year teaching English in China under the BYU program.

Asked what else sticks out in his mind about the school, Allen responded, “When the Church announced they were changing the name to BYU-Hawaii, I thought, that’s terrible: We’ll lose our identity . . . but I was completely wrong. That was one of the best things to establish credibility for the college.”

“When we got our mission call to PCC, we thought we were in heaven,” said Allen, who noted he and Maureen worked in the Mission Complex.

“We never got this place out of our system.”

— Mike Foley
(December 2004)

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