UH renames life science building after the 'First Lady of Limu'
The newest building at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa will finally receive its long-anticipated new name.
The modern, window-lined complex opened for life science classes in fall 2020. While currently known to students and administrators as 'The Life Sciences Building,' the structure will now take on the name of the Isabella Aiona Abbott Life Science Building.
Isabella Aiona Abbott was a scientist who discovered over 200 species of seaweed during her career as an ethnobotany researcher at UH. She is the first known Native Hawaiian to receive a PhD.
"Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott truly exemplifies what it means to be a person of significance to the University of Hawaiʻi. And the new Life Sciences Building provides a highly befitting opportunity to honor her life, career and contributions,” wrote UH President David Lassner in his letter recommending the building’s renaming to the Board of Regents.
Rosie Alegado, an associate professor of oceanography, said Abbott faced numerous barriers to her career advancement. "She not only smashed them, but she also worked to open pathways for other Native Hawaiian scientists."
"She is an individual who is totally grounded in the teaching of her kūpuna and applied that knowledge to advance a Western scientific field," Alegado said.
The UH board of regents unanimously voted in support of renaming the building.
About six years ago, the renaming effort began as a grass-roots campaign. More than 3,000 people signed a petition, and more than 100 people submitted testimony in support. UH Mānoa Native Hawaiian Student Services assisted with publicizing the effort.
Prior to the Isabella Aiona Abbott Life Science Building, only three infrastructures at the Mānoa campus were named after Native Hawaiians.
"Most importantly, Izzy’s unparalleled achievements were not made in spite of her upbringing and cultural heritage, but because of them. When she saw wrongdoings being perpetuated in the institutions where she was educated, she spoke out and took a stand to call for reforms," Alegado said.