Forever Young: Oswald Stender

Published: Sep. 21, 2009 at 7:16 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 21, 2009 at 7:19 PM HST
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Oswald Stender
Oswald Stender

HONOLULU (KHNL) - He says the key to his success is the ability to work with others and to think outside the box. And at the age of 77, Oswald Stender remains at the top of his game working with the office of Hawaiian affairs. And for his accomplishments, he is one of this year's recipients of the Honolulu Forever Young awards.

A former student of the Kamehameha schools, Oswald Stender learned to lead and succeed at a very young age. He had little choice. Orphaned at the age of two he was raised by his kupuna. It was through his modest, yet enriching upbringing and schooling that he gained an appetite for helping others.

"I was a student there, and I credit Kamehameha with my growing-up years and what I've learned to participate in this community. Kamehameha was for me, gave me discipline, gave me focus" said Stender.

Stender eventually used those tools to ascend to the position of chief executive officer, for the estate of James Campbell.

 "Campbell Estate was my first real job, and I think the management philosophy of Campbell was, 'be the best you can, and do the best job you can.' They provided educational opportunities while employed, so that helped me to hone my skills in the business community."

And those skills would take Stender full circle, to the board of trustees for the Bishop Estate. The trust that oversaw the very schools that gave him the head start he needed. And always the leader, Stender would play a key role in reforming the trust, now known as Kamehameha Schools. It was a move that led to his resignation, and a more transparent organization that returned the focus from the boardroom to the classroom.

Today he serves as a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) where his focus remains helping others.

"Working for OHA, there's so much need out there that there's not enough hours in the day to deal with it all. Hawaiians can do a lot, Hawaiians have the passion for people and  I hope more Hawaiians, even beyond 75 will continue to do that."

 Among his many accomplishments, creating a scholarship fund for Kamehameha Schools drop- outs, and supporting a budding musician who went on to international fame, Israel Kamakawiwoole.

"We launched his first album. And of course the foundation was set up. Of course Iz died at a very early age but his family will be cared for by the royalties."

Stender's only regret now is that he can't go on forever. For now, he says he'll continue his work to improve the lives of others, while taking a little time along the way to keep his own house in order. For instance, mowing his own lawn.

"I enjoy that. I'ts sweat work and it really keeps me healthy. Of course, golf helps a lot too" said Stender.

And, if you need to find Oswald Stender, he's usually in his office by 5:45 each morning.