Service Continues for BYU-Hawaii Retiree
October 1, 2013
Napua Baker’s friendly face and warm aloha are familiar on campus. Even though she is not here daily, she remains close. Baker first came to the Church College of Hawaii as a student in 1959, and when she retired from Brigham Young University-Hawaii in 2008, it was after 27 years of full-time service to the university and its students.
“The students here amaze me. They always have,” she says. “A BYU-Hawaii education is designed to be spiritual, academic, and practical. These young people are leaders who bless the world in China, Mongolia, and everywhere. I appreciate what that means more now than ever.”
At the time of her retirement Baker was the university’s vice president of advancement, a position she helped to create and served in for 17 years. She was the first woman and the first Polynesian to serve as vice president in the Church Educational System. She was also a pioneer in the university’s fundraising efforts.
“I see myself as an example of the value of education,” she says. “My parents and grandparents were not highly educated in terms of degrees, but they were hard workers and entrepreneurs. They taught me, my sister, and my brother the importance of hard work and faith. They encouraged lifelong learning.”
As a young woman Baker attended CCH (now BYU-Hawaii) for two years. Then after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brigham Young University in Provo and rearing her family, she returned to Laie to build its continuing education program.
“I’ve been involved here almost since the beginning, and I’ve gained a broad perspective of the importance of this school and its students in the Lord’s plan. This university prepares leaders to build the kingdom,” says Baker.
NOT FAR FROM THE TREE
Baker is native Hawaiian and a sixth generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I saw the blessings of the gospel in my parents’ and grandparents’ lives. They are great examples to me,” she says.
“My grandmother showed me faith and obedience,” says Baker, who spent a lot of time with her tutu on the island of Molokai. “I remember seeing her kneeling by her bed. She would pray from the depths of her soul in Hawaiian. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I knew she was speaking to our Heavenly Father, and that she knew Him.
She was obedient; for example, she had a whole room filled with bottled food - fruit, vegetables, and even poi. She taught herself to do that because Church leaders had counseled members to be prepared.”
Baker serves in the Church. She recently returned to Laie from a full-time Church mission at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City. As a missionary, among other efforts, she worked to preserve the records of those who lived in the leper colony known as Kalaupapa on Molokai. “It was such an honor,” she says. “I learned to understand and perform Heavenly Father’s work in family history as I never had before.”
Her service to BYU-Hawaii continues. She is currently a volunteer leader of the Matthew Cowley Society, a group of university friends and alumni who have made a gift to the university in their estate plans.
In her estate plan Baker has outlined a scholarship to bless BYU-Hawaii students in honor of her grandmother. “She was an inspiration to me,” says Baker. “She will always be a beacon of light to me and our family.”
Hundreds of miles away from her home in Ulaanbaatar, Buyanerdene Chimedregzen shouted aloud with joy when she received news of her acceptance to Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Her three long, grueling years of studying English through the university’s online program were paying off: her dream of studying at BYU-Hawaii had finally come true.