TIM alumnus endows new scholarship benefiting Maui students
Ren Hirose was inspired by a fellow alum and hopes his gift encourages others to give back
By Dani Douglass
School of Travel Industry Management (TIM School) alumnus Ren Hirose, BBA ‘85, is no stranger to supporting his alma mater. His latest gift of an endowed $50,000 scholarship, called the Ren Hirose Family Endowed Scholarship, adds to his contributions over the years to the college and its students. As a Maui native and Baldwin High School graduate, Hirose’s scholarship will preference students from Maui high schools to give them opportunities to attend the TIM School to prepare them for promising careers in the tourism and hospitality industry.
From thousands of miles from Hawai‘i, the Arizona resident stays highly connected to the TIM School and to the University of Hawai‘i. Since 1998, he has been a board member of the TIM Alumni Association (TIMAA) and he was the longest serving president of the board from 2000-2005. Hirose has helped to raise nearly $1 million through his involvement as TIMAA co-chair during 15 online and silent auctions and its Celebrate a Legacy in Tourism event from 2001-2004. He was also the co-chair for the UH Distinguished Alumni Awards and a member of the UH President’s Club for nearly a decade. In 2003, he was inducted into the TIM School Alumni Hall of Honor and in 2015 received the UH Distinguished Alumni Award.
Ren continues to promotes many alumni events from the mainland.
Hirose also served on the University of Hawai‘i Alumni Association (UHAA) Board of Directors for six years and was its president for the 2007-2008 term. He continues to promote UHAA events in Arizona and helped with the Shidler Northern California Alumni & Friends Event this past fall. He has also guest lectured at the TIM School and serves as a mentor to students while they are completing their degrees and has continued mentorship with many after they graduate.
“I enjoy creative mentorship, such as meeting over lunch or on the golf course,” Hirose said. “It’s not as intimidating and it helps develop the students' interpersonal communication skills.”
His mentorship has also helped TIM School alumni acquire mainland positions. Hirose has used his personal network to help students who relocate set up interviews and secure jobs.
The value of education is deeply rooted in Hirose and his older brother, Roen Hirose, BBA ‘82. His mom was a teacher and his dad was his principal at Iao Intermediate School and later served as deputy district superintendent for Maui County. He fondly recalls the advice his grandfather gave him about education. “He told me ‘Ren, get your education because it is something that no one can take away from you.’”
Hirose’s new scholarship is what he saw as the natural next level of giving back. He says that he was inspired by fellow TIM School alumnus Clinton Inouye, BBA ’80, who established his own named scholarship. He hopes that his gift will inspire other TIM School alumni to give back and support the next generation of hospitality professionals.
“If you can’t give financially, there are many other ways to get involved,” he said. “You can give your time, which is so valuable these days, as a mentor or a guest lecturer. You have a lot to offer as an experienced industry leader and can inspire students as they start on their career paths.”
A career of thousands of miles
In 2001, Hirose was one of the regional directors of Six Sigma when Starwood launched their process improvement program and in 2005 held a dual role as area managing director of French Polynesia where he opened the St. Regis Bora Bora. His first college internship at the Sheraton Maui Resort was made possible by TIM alumnus and general manager, Ernest Nishizaki, BBA ‘69. He also spent time leading hotels on the Big Island and O‘ahu before his final Hawai‘i general manager role at W Honolulu where he turned the hotel's restaurant into a nightclub after dinner hours which became a trend in Honolulu.
In 2008, Hirose was offered the general manager position at his favorite hotel, W Los Angeles. Then in 2012, he moved to Arizona to accept the general manager position at W Scottsdale. In Scottsdale, the bars grossed more revenue than the company’s New York locations and some days the pool parties brought in over $100,000. He launched the first W Music Festival and later the hotel was regarded as one of the top entertainment hotels for the W brand worldwide.
These days in his retirement, Ren is able to satisfy his wanderlust. He visited Machu Picchu on a recent trip.
After a long and successful career in the hospitality industry, Hirose retired in 2019 from his job as the regional vice president at HEI Hotels and Resorts, where he was responsible for the oversight of a dozen hotels across the country since 2017.
These days, Hirose is able to spend his time chasing his wanderlust. He travels often and goes somewhere new each month. He recently traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore, where he helped organize an alumni event with TIM School alumnus, Anthony Wong, BBA ’83. On an upcoming New Zealand and Australia cruise he plans to meet up with alumnus Tim Marsden, BBA ’76, and organize an alumni event in Sydney. Places still on his dream list include Korea, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina and the Philippines.
Hirose also enjoys plenty of down time with friends and his hanai niece, nephew and dogs. Outside of time with them, he enjoys being on the golf course and loves Korean, Italian and local Hawaiian food.
He has some straightforward advice for today’s TIM School students and for recent graduates.
“Find a company that you can work for with long-term future and growth,” Hirose said. “Once you are there, loyalty is so important. For your success, stay with a company for a long time. They will take care of you, and you will build those relationships. Whenever I needed help, I could call on someone because they become family. If you jump ship too much, you won’t have this.”