Bill to name high school for Mink passes Senate

A bill requiring the state Board of Education to name the new Kihei high school in honor of the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink sailed through the state Senate this week, crossing over to the House of Representatives.

Online records for Senate Bill 2446 showed that it passed unanimously Tuesday, although the Senate’s only Republican, Sen. Sam Slom of East Honolulu, voted aye “with reservations.”

The bill passed with an amendment to make its effective date July 1, 2050, a move by lawmakers to keep a measure alive but to indicate that more work is needed before it’s passed in its final form.

The bill was introduced by Central Oahu Sen. Michelle Kidani, and its co-sponsors included Maui Sens. Roz Baker, Gil Keith-Agaran and J. Kalani English. The bill passed first reading in the House on Thursday. Legislative records did not indicate whether the measure had been referred to committee or scheduled for a hearing.

Testimony in favor of naming the South Maui school after Mink came from Jadine Nielsen, chairwoman of the Patsy T. Mink Political Action Committee.

“Patsy Takemoto Mink was a distinguished, dedicated and innovative legislative trailblazer who overcame gender and racial discrimination to become one of the most influential public servants of her generation,” Nielsen said in testimony to the Senate Education Committee. “The naming of a new public high school the ‘Patsy Takemoto Mink High School’ would honor the integrity and values of her life. Moreover, it would serve to highlight Patsy Takemoto Mink’s legacy as a role model to Hawaii’s and our nation’s children – that one amazing woman who had high ideals took risks every day to change forever the lives of future generations.”

In other testimony, James Andrew Beerer, chairman of the Kihei High School Action Team, said it would seem appropriate to ask members of the community for their input.

“This naming may be completely appropriate or there may be other alternative names, considerations and viewpoints,” he said. “At this juncture, I do not believe the community has had an opportunity to properly review and consider this.”

Noriko Namiki, chief executive officer of the YWCA of Oahu, said that naming a new public high school anywhere in the state seems appropriate, “but Maui will be the best place as we look upon the history and legacy of Representative Mink and her personal association with the county.”

Namiki noted that the YWCA is the host of the Patsy T. Mink Center for Business and Leadership.

“We have seen the impact and the significance Representative Mink’s name brings to a place – a sense of pride and inspiration,” she said. “Aspiring women entrepreneurs and career professionals gain strength and reaffirm their goals as they visit our center, and we know the source of the encouragement comes from the name of the center.”

Born Dec. 6, 1927, Mink was raised in Paia and graduated from Maui High School as its valedictorian in 1944. She went on to the University of Hawaii, graduating in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in zoology and chemistry.

Although Mink intended to pursue a career in medicine, she was denied admission to more than a dozen medical schools “because she was a woman,” according to the bill to name the Kihei school in her honor. Mink then applied for and was accepted at the University of Chicago School of Law and graduated with a law degree in 1951.

She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964. She authored Title IX in 1972, ensuring that gender discrimination would be barred from sports and educational programs receiving federal funding. Mink died in September 2002. She was 74.

Last year, the Legislature approved spending $130 million to build the new high school in Kihei.

* Brian Perry can be reached at