Just over twenty-one years since his passing, the legacy of President Lester Cingcade’s vision for and service to Mid-Pacific echoes on campus today. His presidency from 1985-96 heralded a time of change for the campus and culture – growth, internationalism, and innovation to meet the changing times. With insight from past students and staff, we offer a look back at the legacy of Lester Cingcade.
Cingcade’s impact at Mid-Pacific started earlier than his presidency – as a newly hired History teacher and Track coach in 1955, he quickly took on more responsibilities – being appointed as Dean of Boys and Assistant to the Principal by Principal Bakken in 1957. His initial time at Mid-Pacific was cut short by a call to active duty in the Army in 1959, returning to Mid-Pacific in 1961. In 1966, after earning a Masters in Education at UH Mānoa, Cingcade was tapped by Hawaiʻi Chief Justice Bill Richardson as the first Administrative Director for the courts system, where he served until 1985, implementing new technology, streamlining processes and modernizing not only the Hawaiʻi court system, but also improving court administration nationally. The National Center for State Courts honored Cingcade with a Distinguished Service Award.
Gil Suzawa ‘60 graciously provided an essay about his experience with Lester Cingcade at Mid-Pacific. An excerpt from his essay is included below:
“During my sophomore year I ended up having to make two visits to the main administration office for talks with Dean Lester E. Cingcade. At the time, I was not particularly fond of Cingcade, and I was naive enough to not realize that he was wearing his “administrator’s hat” at those times. One of the visits dealt with serving as a Senator in Wilcox during my upcoming junior year. The second dealt with serving as a “Big Brother” to a transferring sophomore student from Roosevelt High School The meeting involving becoming a junior Senator went quite amicably. My classmate Brian Nakashima also went through a similar process and we both ended up serving as “unconventional junior” Senators. On the other hand, my second meeting with Dean Lester E. Cingcade was “something else.” What was on the table for discussion was essentially a solicitation by the Dean for me to serve as an “acculturation helper” for a Honolulu boy who was going to be my classmate. This seemed to be highly untraditional and unappealing to me and I was extremely resistant to the idea. Consequently, our conversation during this session lasted for over an hour before I agreed to do so.
In essence, that session served the purpose of being my first “real lesson” in the Art of Persuasion by a practitioner who proved to be extremely adept at its applications. So good that I started to apply what I had learned from that session during my junior year. As a Senator responsible for monitoring one wing of Wilcox Hall, I became really upset by how my freshmen and sophomore dormers found it extremely difficult to adjust to the very long and stringent Study Hall period – three hours with only Senator’s permission to leave the study desks. So, I took on my “mentor” Dean Lester E. Cingcade and negotiated a program of two one-and-a-quarter-hour sessions with an intervening half-hour break where dormers were free to do anything they wished, within reason. Of course, my motives were not purely companionate and rational, I also wanted to play the HI-FI system that I had.”
During his judiciary career, Cingcade had remained a member of Mid-Pacific’s Board of Managers. In 1985, he was appointed President of the school, bringing his experience in reimagining systems and his passion for change to his role. While he admits in his essay “Making Futures Productive in the Court and in Education,” published in 2001, that his “experience in attempting to bring about change in education proved to be every bit as challenging as in the Judiciary,” Cingcade left a lasting, positive impact on the school that is still seen today.
Cingcade’s vision included using new tools, technology and structures to address the individual needs of students, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a changing global society. His vision also included strategic planning and addressing financial sustainability, creating and staffing an advancement department. President Cingcade’s vision also included strengthening the community of Mid-Pacific – embracing the alumni, teachers, parents and students to share in the vision of what Mid-Pacific could be.
Some aspects of President Cingcade’s legacy are tangible, and can be experienced on campus and in classrooms today:
- In 1986, Mid-Pacific Institute became the first school in Hawaiʻi to adopt the academically rigorous and global studies-focused International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme. One of the most challenging academic programs in the world, the foundation of all IB courses is an international outlook, and affirms the worldview of President Cingcade as well as Mid-Pacific founder Francis Damon, who more than 100 years ago understood the value of diverse ideas and the importance of learning within a global framework.
- Mid-Pacific School of the Arts (MPSA) was established as the first pre-professional school of the arts in 1991, offering students the opportunity to study under the direction of expert instructors from stage and screen who are noted professionals in their fields. Today, Mid-Pacific offers pre-conservatory level programs and intensive arts training in dance, hula, instrumental music, media, musical theatre, theatre, and visual and digital arts.
- The president’s residence, Atherton House, was reconstructed in 1992 with the addition of a pavilion as a center for groups of faculty and staff to gather for monthly receptions. Today, the pavilion is home to Pupukahi, our Hula halau under the direction of Michael Lanakila Casupang.
- Kitamura Diamond – the renovation of the baseball diamond was the culmination of the “Field of Dreams” campaign in 1994 and named for coaches Harry Kitamura 1952-1969 and Richard Kitamura 1975-1980.
Other aspects of his legacy had impacts on the planning and systems processes at Mid-Pacific. While a number of beautification and building improvement projects occurred during his tenure, he left behind a long-term facilities master plan when he retired, mapping the way for future administrations to follow. With a vision of financial sustainability, President Cingcade also established the Institutional Advancement office, bringing on Sue Francis as the first Vice President of the department. During this time, Francis introduced an Annual Fund and secured the school’s first $1,000,000 gift. Cingcade embraced evolving technology both for student education and school operations. The first computer labs were created during his time at the school, with the expansion of Chew Technology center coming soon after he retired.
Of course, no man can do it alone, and Sue Francis reflects that getting support for his vision for the future of Mid-Pacific may have been one of Lester Cingcade’s greatest accomplishments. She wrote in her Tribute to Les Cingcade in 2002 – that “loyalty” was the quality that Cingcade valued most in his staff and that the concept of loyalty held specific meanings to him including: “Loyalty meant dedication to a purpose, a plan, an idea – a willingness to sacrifice self-interest for the discipline it takes to work toward a larger design, a common goal, a common good.” She described that Cingcade was loyal in turn to all that worked with him – “Giving credit to others, challenging us, encouraging us, (and) content to be the ‘wind beneath our wings.’”
Reflecting on Lester Cingcade’s vision in comparison to where Mid-Pacific is today, we think he would be proud of the legacy he left behind and the advances that are still being made today under the leadership of Dr. Paul Turnbull. Cingcade’s hope that “programs which address skills other than those that are presently considered to be the cornerstones of education” and that “future conversations about education will begin with child-centered awareness” are realized today in Mid-Pacific’s academic curricula across all grade levels. Our embrace and implementation of new technologies integrated with Deeper Learning, along with individualized paths of study align with President Cingcade’s vision for the future.
Lester Cingcade retired from Mid-Pacific in 1996 and subsequently moved to the mainland to spend more time with his family. Ever the visionary, he established the Cingcade Scholarship Endowment Fund in his and his wife, Judi’s name prior to his passing in March 2002. President Cingcade’s scholarship continues to benefit students with financial need.