University of Hawaii Maui College formerly known as Maui Community College first offered off-campus instruction to Moloka’i in 1970. A small number of students began taking courses in Hotel Operations and Liberal Arts areas. Classes were taught at the Kaunakakai Elementary School and Mr. Fred Bicoy and his staff at the Maui Economic Opportunity Office handled registration. Little or no support services (such as library, academic advising, financial aid) were available on a regular basis.
By the 1980’s, the enrollment had grown to over 120 students and the need for more permanent facilities became apparent. In February of 1986, Maui Community College was able to secure a 2000 sq. ft. rental facility and the Molokai Education Center had a permanent presence. Enrollments doubled as students finally had a place to call their own. The first cable course was broadcast in 1986, followed shortly by SkyBridge in 1988 and HITS (UH/ITV) in 1991. In addition, many Molokai-based lecturers were hired as on-site instructors in programs which now included Human Services, Office Administration and Technology, Agriculture, Nurse Aid Training, and Business Careers.
Then in the early 1990’s, the Chancellor released money for a site evaluation study to identify a permanent home for the College on Molokai . In 1993, the present site was selected by both the community and the Board of Regents. After a few years, the State Legislature funded the project and construction of the UH Maui College, Molokai Education Center on two-acres of land donated by Molokai Ranch began. The facility was opened to the public in August of 1999 and remains the focal point of higher education on Molokai today.
Architects, Kauahikaua & Chun, have given the following explanation of the building’s concept and design:
The new Molokai Education Center attempts to combine native Hawaiian and future-oriented technological architectural features. Innovative and thought provoking as the educational programs to be offered, the new building represents a milestone in the continuing effort to define a modern and future Hawaiian architecture.
The generally all-metal exterior is inspired by indigenous Hawaiian grass houses in which roof and walls were covered with the same building material. Like grass houses, the walls are short and the roofs are high. Angular roof shapes are based on the irregular silhouette of ancient houses. The low-pitched roof is designed for future photovoltaic system to save energy costs. The building is green — the official color of Molokai.
Like the ancient Hawaiian house the building rests on a stone platform which also forms the eastern end of the Mall. In the future this kukui-shaped Mall will stretch the entire length of an expanded Molokai Education Center campus. The poetic phrase “kukui malamalama” combines the floral symbol of Molokai with the University of Hawai’i motto “caring for the light of knowledge.”
The entrance court is paved with stone designed into two rainwater channels. The entrance feature is a pair of concrete columns depicting historic economic “pillars” of Molokai’s economy arranged in rough chronological order from bottom to top. The base design is of fish and taro-ancient foundations of the economy. Above these on the right are designs of a salt barrel and sugar cane with Meyer Mill. On the left is a sandalwood fan with a ship referring to Ka Lua Na Moku ‘Iliahi-the sandalwood pit at Kamiloloa, and a honey bee hive. The bee hive design is taken from scrip money printed at Lahainaluna. Across the top are designs for corn, pineapple, cattle, and watermelon. It is hoped that the learning to take place in the new building will be a future economic pillar for Molokai.
Inside, the lobby is day-lighted to save electricity costs. The reception counter features the three-breadfruit logo of Maui Community College representing Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. The high Library ceiling evokes the interior of Hawaiian grass houses and says “A world of knowledge here at home” in the English and Hawaiian languages.