A Gift to Inspire – Bill Haning '67

By Suzanne Sato '67

William F. Haning III '67 was my speech team partner in 1966 when we performed a well-received rendition of a scene from Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park." He played the straight man whose subversive wit and Aussie accent seduced the judges and tickled the audience.

Bill arrived in Hawai'i as a junior after attending eight schools all over the world. Punahou was a kind of haven for a self-described "odd" kid who immediately found mentors and friends in what former president Dr. John Fox delicately called the "different" Class of 1967. Bill recalled, "It was educational Disneyland."

Today, Bill continues to mask his stunning intellect and nationally acknowledged roster of professional accomplishments with self-deprecating wit and a genuine generosity of spirit.

How to square the accomplishments of a Navy captain serving as the medical director (Force Surgeon) for U.S. Marine Forces Pacific and U.S. Marine Forces Central Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom, with his experience as a tenured professor of Psychiatry, and director of Undergraduate Medical Education at the University of Hawai'i John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)? A graduate of Princeton University and JABSOM, Bill's nationally recognized expertise in Addiction Medicine and Addiction Psychiatry has led to Distinguished Fellowships and leadership appointments in Hawai'i and on several national boards. Among his honors, he was named Hawaii Medical Association Physician of the Year in 2014, awarded to those who go above and beyond the call of the medical profession in addressing important community health care issues.

Bill's recognition for excellence in teaching speaks to his uncanny ability to put himself in the other person's shoes, often because he has been there himself. He is able to empathize with what patients or students are experiencing, whether on a battlefield, or in a classroom, clinic or courtroom. Punahou has benefited from his expertise through the generous amounts of time he has spent mentoring students as part of the Capstone Science course for the past several years.

Bill says that he spends "a lot of time trying to defeat age through exercise, which seems only to wear me out; and an equal amount of time trying to understand humanity by reading history, which only raises more questions." He further notes that he is "the undeserving spouse of the remarkable Dr. Libby Char, assistant clinical professor of Surgery in Emergency Medicine."

In 2011, inspired by the example of a noted Punahou alumnus, Bill established the Barack Hussein Obama '79 Endowed Financial Aid Fund to provide assistance for students who have demonstrated financial need "to encourage certain aspirations: integrity, service, sharing – with a preference for student(s) with an interest in community/public service and who exhibit collaborative, inquisitive thinking and problem-solving skills." At the same time, he honored his father and the many teachers who mentored him at Punahou by establishing the Col. William F. Haning Jr. Endowed Fund to support faculty professional development. Chair of the Class of '67 Reunion Gift Committee, Bill decided to add to both funds again in celebration of his 50th Reunion.

Since establishing the Obama Endowed Fund, Bill has wanted to personally express his motivation for the fund directly to President Obama, and on New Year's Day in 2017, Bill and Libby finally had the opportunity to meet him.

"In a letter to Barack Obama, Libby and I thanked him for his selflessness and courage in executing the presidency of a sometimes-hostile, commonly ungrateful, but dear and worthy country. He and his brilliant wife provided the grace, humor and guidance that still sustains our hopes."

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