East-West Center Oral History Project: Sumi Makey

Sumi Makey

Sumi Makey was born on Maui and was educated at the University of Hawai'i and Teachers College, Columbia University (MA in Counseling and Guidance).  After working as a counselor at the University of Illinois and Ohio State University, she spent nine years with the government in Washington, D.C., the last four years programming Agency for International Development participants from Asia.  She joined the Center's Institute for Student Interchange in 1964 and played a major role in developing the first student programs.  During the 1970's, she was largely responsible for the establishment of Open Grants which provided the Center with the flexibility to invite participants whose fields and interests did not mesh with those of the research institutes.  In 1979, she was appointed the first Dean of the newly-created Office of Student Affairs and Open Grants.  As Dean, she visited China and Bhutan, inviting the Center’s first students from these countries.  Makey retired as Dean in 1988 and continues to be active in Center life.


Read Makey's interview narrative (pdf)


  • Personal Background
  • Life Before EWC - Work in Washington, D.C. - Interest in EWC
  • Life at EWC - Institute for Student Interchange, Mid-‘60s - Best Memories, the ‘60s
  • Institutional Transitions - Program Coordination Office, ‘60s - Separation from UH
  • Intellectual Innovations - Open Grants Program - First Students from Bhutan, China - Contemporary Issues in Asia and Pacific Seminar
  • Ties That Last - Alumni - The Mission
  • EWC’s Impact - On Career - On Students - On Perspective


Interview Quotes
"During the '80s, then, when President Victor Li was here, he asked me to set up a seminar looking at contemporary issues in Asia and the Pacific.  He felt it was important not only for a student to get a degree, but also to learn about the different perspectives and the problems that are facing people in Asia and the Pacific…  He is the one who stimulated this seminar.  It may be a little different now, but the whole point of it was that he felt strongly -- and I agreed with him -- the experience should be more than just getting a degree at the university."

"After I left, I believe it slowly changed, but Open Grants was important then to enable the Center to take students who didn't fit into the institutes, but who showed leadership potential.  In fact, we were freer to take people in various fields in Open Grants, unlike the institutes which accepted students in fields related to institute projects and interests.  So Open Grants brought students in the sciences, in religion, philosophy, and history, in fields not often represented in the institutes.  We had an interesting group of very good students in Open Grants."


“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."


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.