East-West Center Board Names Suzanne Vares-Lum as Institution’s Next President


Former Army general will be first woman, Native Hawaiian to lead the Center 

HONOLULU (Nov. 18, 2021) -- The East-West Center Board of Governors has selected Ms. Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum to be the institution’s next president. The appointment concludes an extensive search to succeed outgoing president Dr. Richard R. Vuylsteke at the beginning of the new year. 

Suzanne Vares-LumA former Major General in the US Army, Vares-Lum, who goes by Suzy, is the first woman and first Native Hawaiian to lead the Center since it was founded in 1960. “I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to continue to advance the vision of the East-West Center,” she said. “The Indo-Pacific region presents many future opportunities and solutions to global issues, and the Center is renowned as an inclusive space for bringing people of diverse histories and cultures together to build regional understanding through the sharing of ideas, perspectives, and solutions for all of our communities. I truly believe that EWC, and Hawai‘i, play a unique role in bridging East and West to address the critical issues that will impact our future generations.” 

“Suzy Vares-Lum was selected from an impressive applicant pool of talented and experienced individuals,” said EWC Board of Governors Chairman Dr. James Scott in making the announcement. “We are very confident that her breadth of successful leadership experience in the Indo-Pacific, as well as her strong interpersonal qualities, are a great match for the East-West Center. The Center’s Board of Governors is absolutely thrilled to work closely with Suzy as we build upon the terrific work of Richard Vuylsteke and his staff to position the East-West Center for its next era of prominence and success.”   

Vuylsteke, who will be starting a faculty position at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies after his departure from EWC following a five-year term, said “I am delighted with the Board’s selection. Suzy has long been a great friend and partner of the Center, and I am fully confident that she will further strengthen the Center’s relevance and impact in the region. I look forward to working with her on a seamless transition.” 


About Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum

As a Major General in the US Army, Ms. Vares-Lum advised the most senior officials at the US Indo-Pacific Command, where she maintained key relationships among nations within the Asia Pacific Region. After retiring from the military in April after 34 years of service, she formed a consultancy on Indo-Pacific issues. She is a seasoned speaker and advocate on regional issues; leadership development; and women, peace and security, and has led a number of collaborative initiatives in the Pacific. 

As a community leader, she serves on a variety of nonprofit boards, including the American Red Cross Pacific Islands Region. She has also worked to promote Hawai‘i’s economic diversification and workforce development, as well as fostering community dialogues on issues regarding land and water. She has also served as a strategic advisor to the Hawai‘i Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council. 

Born and raised in Wahiawā on the Hawaiian island of O‘ahu, Ms. Vares-Lum received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master of Education in teaching from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and a Master of Strategic Studies from the US Army War College. In 2019, she became a National Security Fellow of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and she is also an alumna of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. In 2017, she was a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and in 2021 she received certificates of recognition for outstanding service to the State of Hawai‘i. 

Ms. Vares-Lum is a resident of Kāneʻohe, Hawai‘i and is married with two adult daughters.