HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Leslie Wilcox is not just one of Hawaii's most respected journalists; she now runs a TV station. Reporting is in Leslie's roots. Her dad was a radio broadcaster, and a gifted storyteller.
"He would tell it in a way that was so engaging, you would want to hear it again. My father had a huge effect on me" said Wilcox.
It was an eye-opening experience with a math classmate in 8th grade that shaped the storyteller Leslie became.
"I was reading the school newspaper under the desk. My old math teacher and I, Mr. Hirashiki would laugh about this just now, because he knew what I was doing. As I was reading the school newspaper, I realized that this girl I sat next to that I would have these shallow conversations with – like how is your weekend- she was a refugee from the killing fields of Cambodia, she lost her entire family. I realized I'm living life on a very superficial level and there's so much more to know and more depth to get to."
Over her 30 year news career Leslie interviewed three presidents and even had a deep discussion with the Dalai Lama about underwear. Still, she's far from star-struck.
"People think celebrities are so fascinating, but the best interviews are usually regular people who've gone through some kind of adversity and learned to deal with it. So I always looked for people who stayed in the back of the room tried to walk out of the way, and tried to get to know them."
And she did. First as a Star-Bulletin reporter in 1973. Four years later, TV came calling. KGMB's respected anchor Bob Sevey saw something special in Leslie Wilcox. Viewers did too
"She has a very easy manner with the common man, with the ordinary person, with the guy in the back of the room, with children, older adults, whatever. She just has the ability to make a connection immediately" said Meriel Collins.
And she gave back, co-founding the Lokahi Giving Project to help struggling families. Leslie's gifts as a community leader are obvious to almost everyone.
"I am very honored. I have to tell you I don't think of myself as a leader" said Wilcox.
She had to lead PBS Hawaii through tough times when she took the helm as president and CEO in 2007. The economy had tanked and stations everywhere were struggling.
"As they say, there's a lot of opportunity when there's chaos. I see so much that's possible for PBS Hawaii."
Now a grandmother of three, education is a priority for this Kalani grad. She's the driving force behind an ambitious student-run, statewide newscast, a first in the nation starting in February.
"I think we'll be seeing places on television that have been invisible for years on the media."
The program is aptly named.
"Hikino, which is a phrase I grew up hearing. Hikino. Can do."
Nominator Joan Husted said Leslie's "can do" attitude is contagious.
"She's able to get people to do things they never thought they could do, gets people to do things maybe they didn't want to do, and she gets people to do things for the betterment of other people. I think that's the definition of a leader and I think she does it very well."