East-West Center Oral History Project: Benji Bennington

Benji Bennington

Jeanette "Benji" Bennington joined the Center's Housing Office in August of 1962, one day before 300 new students arrived for fall semester.  Quickly immersing herself in student life, Bennington -- then a UH masters degree student -- started on a journey during which she made lifelong friendships and contributed significantly to EWC's cultural celebrations and arts programs.  During her four decades with the Center, Bennington served in the Public Affairs and Alumni offices and as Exhibits Specialist in the Institute of Culture and Communications.  She retired in 1989 and then signed on as consultant to the Arts Program.  In 2004 she retired again with the unofficial, but accurate, title of "East-West Center Historian." Bennington's nearly five hour interview colorfully reviews over 40 years of East-West Center history -- a parade of people, arts and culture.


Choose the part that you want to read by clicking on that part, below:
PART 1 (pdf)


  • Personal Background - Interest in Hawai‘i - Arrival in Hawai‘i, 1961
  • Life at EWC - Creation of EWC - The 1960s - Housing, 1960s - Hale Kuahine/Hale Manoa, 1960s - Socializing with Food - Governor John Burns - Thanksgiving with Duke Kahanamoku - Friends of East-West Center/Host Family Program - Hawai‘i, 1960s - Language requirement - Senior Scholars/The Institutes - Guest Speakers/Special Seminars - Orientation - Alumni Office, Mid-'60s - EWC-UH Relationship, 1960s - Chancellors, 1960s - National Review Board - The 1960s, Unique Qualities of the Decade - Traveling in U.S., 1964 - Pacific Island Students, 1960s
  • Intellectual Innovations - Teacher Interchange Program (TIP) - Junior Year Abroad Program (JYP) - CTAPS/ASDP


PART 2 (pdf)


  • Life at EWC - Separation from UH - The 1970s - The 1980s - The 1980s/Zhao Ziyang’s Visit - The 1980s/Pacific Summit - LBJ’s Visit - The 1960s/Thai Pavilion - The 1960s/Japanese Garden - Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF) - Late '80s/Oksenberg Presidency - Strengthening Ties with U.S. - Alumni Action - RIF (Reduction in Force) - Sumida Presidency - Morrison Presidency - Illustrious Visitors
  • Partnerships and Networks - UH Gamelan Orchestra


PART 3 (pdf)


  • Partnerships and Networks - EWC Arts Program/Art Gallery - Arts Program/Outreach to Local Community/Hawaiian Community - Hawaiian Renaissance - Encouraging Nontraditional Artists - Smithsonian Folk Life Program, 1989
  • Ties That Last - Alumni Network - EWC Marriages
  • EWC’s Impact - On Career, Perspectives - Not a Melting Pot, a Tossed Salad


Interview Quote
"People talk about a melting pot, and we're not a melting pot...  We're a tossed salad, because we keep our own ethnic background or backgrounds -- celebrating different parts of our identity at different times.  We're not melting away anything.  Look at our Hawai‘i media.  They comfortably identify somebody as Chinese-Hawaiian.  I don't know if any other states do that kind of thing in their media.  Probably the most they do is say Asian-American, Hispanic-American...  From day one, the East-West Center has never been color blind.  We want to make sure we have all these different people involved.  And we talk about it.  And so it's not color blind, it's celebrating differences."


These narratives, which reflect interviewees’ personal perceptions, opinions and memories, may contain errors of fact. They do not reflect positions or versions of history officially approved by the East-West Center.