Punahou Bulletin

A Magazine for the Punahou School Family

Summer 2018

Browse By Category

Browse By Issue

Placeholder

Lenny Yajima '79 Andrew

Lenny Yajima ’79 Andrew had been running the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i for nearly five years when she decided it was time to focus on a historical project even closer to home.

By Christine Donnelly

Lenny Yajima ’79 Andrew had been running the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i for nearly five years when she decided it was time to focus on a historical project even closer to home.

Lauded for bringing more visibility to the Mo‘ili‘ili center by expanding educational and community outreach programs and advancing efforts to preserve World War II internment sites, Andrew announced her intention to step down as president and executive director last August and stayed through December to aid her successor.

Now, along with her mother, Lillian Noda Yajima, 91, and paternal aunt Gladys Yajima, 90, she’s sifting through “boxes and boxes” of photographs, newspaper clippings, government documents and other memorabilia related to her own ancestors’ impact on the Japanese-American experience in Hawai‘i.

“Mom is the family historian, the go-to person. She saves everything,” said Andrew. “The Cultural Center wants her collection, so I need to get it into archival quality – digitize the photos, that sort of thing. There’s a lot of material to go through, and I’m grateful to finally have time to do it.”

Andrew’s late maternal grandparents, Steere and Alice (Teshima) Noda, were both trailblazers in Hawai‘i – he as an athlete, businessman, politician and government official, and she as a business- woman and civic leader. Her late father, Tad Yajima, was a founding member of the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the first Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Contest.

Growing up, Andrew attended Hanahau‘oli School and then Punahou, where she was more inclined to run (cross country and track), hike (the Sierra Nevada trek with the Academy hiking club was a highlight) and study (Advanced Placement classes saved her a semester of college tuition) than to explore her family tree.

Once at Harvard, the economics major grew interested in the cultural heritage she had taken for granted as a child. She minored in Japanese Studies and spent a semester in Japan, teaching English and taking classes in conversational Japanese. After college, she returned to Honolulu, worked for Bank of Hawai‘i for five years, and in 1986 was crowned Cherry Blossom Queen, traveling the world with her parents as a cultural ambassador. “I absolutely cherish those memories, because we lost my dad not long after.”

Before her father’s death, Andrew had been taking prerequisites at the University of Hawai‘i in preparation for studying orthodontia on the mainland. No longer willing to leave O‘ahu, but wanting to put her physics, chemistry and biology courses to good use, she instead embarked on a 17-year career in pharmaceutical sales. Andrew, who is married to attorney Dave Andrew ’82, was an executive neurology specialist with Merck U.S. Human Health when the call came to lead the JCCH.

“It was such a wonderful opportunity, and truly a rewarding experience,” said Andrew, who took the post in March 2007. Equally gratifying now is spending time with her mom, aunt and children Davey ’14 and Kimi ’16 as the whole family pitches in on a project intended for the JCCH’s permanent collection.

“All these boxes are filled with history. I’m excited to be able to share that.”

See Photos