Today we celebrate the groundbreaking legacy of educator and civic leader, Gladys Brandt.
Gladys A. Brandt (1906-2003), also known as 'Ainoa Brandt, or Auntie Gladys was shaped by the history taking place around her – from the funeral of Hawaiʻi's last reigning monarch Queen Liliʻuokalani to the movements for self-determination in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Hawaiian Renaissance we feel today. She can be credited with a slate of accomplishments, including reviving Hawaiian traditions, the shake-up of the Kamehameha Schools trustee system, and the creation of the University of Hawai'i's Hawaiian Studies Center.
Born in August 1906, Aunty Gladys lived part of her childhood with her hanai mother, Ida May Pope, who was the first principal of Kamehameha's girls' school from 1894 until her death in 1914. Aunty Gladys referred to herself as "Miss Pope's hanai daughter and that she was very spoiled by Miss Pope." She was the only girl to attend the boys' elementary school.
Her father, David Kanuha, taught tailoring in the boy's school which also made uniforms for the school. When Aunty Gladys was 16, her father changed their last name to ʻAinoa.
Aunty Gladys attended Kamehameha School for Girls, transferring to and graduating from McKinley High School in 1925. After receiving her teaching certificate from Normal School in 1927, she began teaching in the Maui public schools and later in the Kauai school system. In 1942, she graduated from the University of Hawaii with a bachelor's degree in education. By 1962, she had served as principal at both Kalaheo and Kapaa schools on Kauai and as a district superintendent for that island's schools – she was the first woman in the islands to serve in both of these positions. She became the first Native Hawaiian principal of the Kamehameha School for Girls in 1963. She was promoted to director of the high school division in 1969, serving until 1971.
Denied her culture and her language as a child, she grew to embrace her Hawaiian roots and became a legendary fighter for Native Hawaiian rights. Through her role as an educator, she helped revive Hawaiian traditions and helped countless Hawaiians to further their education. A fierce defender of Hawaiian traditions, Aunty Gladys joined with King and three other writers to produce "Broken Trust," an essay published in August 1997 that harshly criticized the then-trustees for financially mismanaging Kamehameha Schools. Her presence and impact were clear earlier that year at a historic march of alumni, teachers, and students to Kawaiahaʻo Plaza to protest the then-trustees management. At a meeting after the march, about 100 restless people, angry at the trustees but emotionally charged by the support they received from the march, crowded into a hall near Kawaiahao Church. But their voices instantly dropped to silence when Brandt walked in. And all stood in respect.
After a 44-year career in education, she retired but remained engaged in her community. In 1983, former governor George Ariyoshi appointed her to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. She served six years on the board, including four years as chairperson. In 1998 and again in 2000, former Governor Ben Cayetano appointed Brandt to serve as a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
She also worked to found the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies. In March 2002, the center was rededicated in her Hawaiian name as “Kamakakūokalani – Gladys K. ʻAinoa Brandt Center for Hawaiian Studies.” Brandt also served as a UH Foundation trustee and was a lifetime President's Club member.
"In education, not anger resides our future. In education, not ignorance resides our hope. In education, not fear, resides justice," - Gladys Kamakakūokalani ʻAinoa Brandt