EWC Community Saddened by Passing of Former Dean of Students Sumi Makey


Sumi MakeyHONOLULU (October 22, 2019) -- The East-West Center community has been saddened to learn of the passing on October 20 of former Dean of Students and longtime Center supporter Sumi Makey. Generations of EWC alumni carry warm memories of Sumi as a caring mentor over the course of her several decades leading the Center’s student and Open Grants programs, which she helped to establish, and later as an active supporter and donor. (Read Sumi’s EWC oral history.)

“I join the East-West Center ‘ohana in mourning the loss of Dean Sumi Makey," said EWC President Richard R. Vuylsteke. “I first met Sumi in June 1970 as a student in the Center’s Open Grants program, and later had the privilege of working as her assistant. She was a mentor, friend, and inspiration – and countless others can say the same. She made time for people. She listened carefully and gave solid advice. She had high expectations of herself and those around her, and her enthusiasm for doing good was contagious. She made the world a better place, and we shall miss her.”

Born Sumi Yoshizawa on Maui to parents from Kumamoto, Japan, she was educated at the University of Hawai'i and Teachers College at Columbia University, earning an MA in counseling and guidance.  After working as a counselor at the University of Illinois and Ohio State University, she spent nearly a decade with the federal government in Washington, D.C., during which time she met her late husband, Henry Makey.

Sumi joined the East-Center in 1964 and played a major role in developing the first student programs. During the 1970s, she was largely responsible for the establishment of the Open Grants program, which greatly broadened the variety of study fields and interests that participants could pursue at the Center. In 1979, she was appointed the first Dean of the newly created Office of Student Affairs and Open Grants. As Dean, she made landmark visits to China and Bhutan, inviting the Center’s first students from those countries.

Sumi Makey with Clare Chan, the first recipient of the Sumi Makey Scholars Award
Sumi with Clare Chan, first recipient of the Sumi Makey Scholars Award

Sumi retired in 1988 but continued to be active in Center life, including generously supporting the EWC Arts Program, and endowing a student scholarship, the Sumi Makey Scholars Award in Arts and Humanities, which supports the creative pursuits of female participants from Southeast Asia. In 2014, the EWC alumni association recognized her as an Outstanding Volunteer, and the Friends of the East-West Center honored her with its “Friend for Life” award.

“The East-West Center is a wonderful place to be and a wonderful place to work,” Sumi remarked after establishing her scholarship. Earlier, she had said: “I think it's only through living and working together and studying together that people are more sensitive to what others are thinking.  They form friendships that often last a lifetime.  You can resolve problems more easily in an environment where you have respect for each other and respect for other cultures.”

“Sumi truly cared about the student participants and their welfare,” said Bill Feltz, an early EWC degree participant and later longtime EWC Arts Program coordinator, who still volunteers as an adjunct staffer. “And she strongly felt that culture and arts are central to the Center’s mandate and goals.”

For those who may be interested in making a donation to the Sumi Makey Scholars Award in Arts and Humanities in her memory, please contact the EWC Advancement Office at [email protected] or (808) 944-7105.