Call it Destiny: UHWO Risk Management program receives endowment from Higa ʻOhana

When Roger Higa connected with the University of Hawaiʻi – West Oʻahu’s Risk Management program, fulfilling his desire to combine altruism, philanthropy, and service to the community – he knew it was Destiny.

The Higa ʻOhana: Maureen, Roger, and Destiny Higa.

Named for Higa’s daughter Destiny, a second grader at Maryknoll School, the Destiny K. Higa Endowment will provide scholarship support to students enrolled in UH West Oʻahu’s Risk Management program.

“It was the missing piece of my puzzle,” Higa said. “How do I go about being able to be a part of something where I could include my daughter to teach her the importance of philanthropy and how she, at a young age, can make a great impact before she even realizes it.”

Establishing the endowment will provide Higa, his wife Maureen, and Destiny the opportunity to spend more quality time together and “do something that is truly meaningful” as they learn more about and support the program and the students.

“Mr. Higa’s warm smile, gentle words reveal the brilliance of his generous hands! His giving — in his daughter’s name — reminds us all of the importance to give to ensure the vitality of opportunities for future generations,” UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham said.

Group photo with Chancellor Benham and VC Oliveira.

From left: UHWO student Sam Sotoa. Dr. Sharon Lee, Roger Higa, UHWO student Kelsey Barretto, Chancellor Maenette Benham, and Vice Chancellor Judy Oliveira.

Higa reflected on the major life events that led to the birth of his only child, Destiny. “She truly is my destiny,” he said of his daughter. “Who knew I would be a widow, that I would remarry, that I would be a dad? I look at her every day and think, ‘You truly are my Destiny.’ ”

Higa chose to support the Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program because it is the only program of its kind in the state of Hawaiʻi, and he wanted to educate the community on the importance of the program. The $25,000 endowment will be used to offset costs associated with attendance. The collaboration began when Higa was invited to speak to the Beta Upsilon Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) students in February. He used the opportunity to instill in the Risk Management students the importance of connecting with clients and building relationships.

“The insurance industry is a noble industry because you need to have heart to be able to work in this industry,” Higa said. “If you don’t have heart then you won’t be able to provide a service, a need, that people in the community need. It really starts with building the relationship, building the trust – making (clients) feel comfortable that you want to do what is in their best interest – not only for them, but their family, the community. It really takes someone special to be able to work in this industry.”

Higa’s presentation “truly inspired” the GIS students, according to chapter president and recent UH West Oʻahu graduate Kelsey Barretto. “It was amazing to see how passionate he is about helping others and (that the industry is) not just about making money.  He is such a successful person that it was humbling to see that he had endured some rough times like all of us have in our lives, so we all could connect to him.”

Starting in June, Barretto will work at RPS (Risk Placement Services) as a commercial underwriter assistant.

“My experience at UH West Oʻahu really gave me the best quality education that I could have ever asked for,” she said. “The RMI program has truly helped to guide me towards my future career in the insurance industry.  Without the RMI program I wouldn’t have all the opportunities that I was given and be able to have the job opportunity that I was given.”

Images courtesy of Roger Higa and UHWO Staff