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David Lassner of University of Hawai’i Recognized for Distinguished Service

The CENIC Christine Haska Distinguished Service Award, established in 2018, honors an individual who has provided extraordinary leadership and service to the CENIC community and its partners. This year the inaugural award is being given to David Lassner, President of the University of Hawai'i, for his extensive work in research and education technology.

Over the last three decades, Lassner has led projects to connect the University of Hawai’i (UH) system and critical global scientific instruments in Hawai’i. He has also led efforts to connect community anchor institutions throughout Hawai’i and the Pacific Islands to UH, the mainland United States, and nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region. His work has helped advance science and education, preserve environmental and cultural resources, connect communities, and enrich myriad lives throughout the Pacific Islands.

“David Lassner’s vision, leadership, and championing of connectivity for the Pacific Islands has spanned decades. During that time, he worked to overcome complex economic and geographic challenges to advanced networking. His gentle guidance, tenacity, and vision have inspired much of the remarkable progress in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in the Pacific Islands. His skillful leadership has been inspirational to all of us who work in the R&E community,” said Louis Fox, President and CEO of CENIC.

Lassner joined UH in 1977 and held a series of technical, management, and executive positions. He was Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer for many years. In 2013, Lassner was named president of the University of Hawai’i. He is also a member of the UH cooperating graduate faculty, and has taught classes in information and computer science, business administration, communication, and education.

Lassner has led numerous networking and research projects over the years. He is the principal investigator (PI) for both the Maui High Performance Computing Center and for the Pacific Disaster Center. He has been an active National Science Foundation PI for almost 20 years, beginning with his leadership of the Hawai‘i Education and Research Network (HERN), a demonstration project to apply networking technologies in K-12 schools and higher education in the 1990s. HERN was followed by major networking projects to keep Hawai‘i connected to its national and global counterparts and promote outreach into the Pacific Islands. Lassner was also PI for several major Department of Commerce projects that brought fiber optic cabling and gigabit-speed networks to public schools, public libraries, and UH sites throughout the state.

In his role as UH CIO, he was responsible for designing, implementing, and directing a new integrated organization to support academic computing, administrative computing, distributed learning technologies, and voice, data, and video telecommunications. Under his leadership, UH Information Technology Services (ITS) provided comprehensive technology support for the statewide needs of ten campuses, including its flagship research university, UH Manoa, along with five education centers and dozens of research facilities on six islands. Lassner led an effort to provision multiple 10 Gbps connections to every community college in Hawai’i. With his IT team, he worked to establish direct fiber connections with gigabit connectivity to every public school and every public library in Hawai’i, and with 10 Gbps connectivity to all of the state’s education centers.

Outside the university, Lassner has had numerous active leadership roles in a number of local, national, and international organizations. He served on the boards of Hawai‘i’s High Technology Development Corporation and Public Broadcasting Service affiliate and he chaired the state’s Broadband Task Force. Lassner also served on the board of Internet2 and was a co-founder and board member of the Kuali Foundation; as a founding steering committee member and chair of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE) Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) cooperative; and as chair of the boards of the Pacific Telecommunications Council and of EDUCAUSE, the major professional association for IT in higher education. He now serves as a WICHE commissioner, on the board of the National Association of System Heads, and on the board of the East West Center, as well as on the boards of Aloha United Way and Blood Bank of Hawai‘i.

Garret Yoshimi, Chief Information Officer at UH, knows firsthand the tremendous impact of Lassner’s lifetime of work. “David Lassner has been a leader in the development and maturation of national and regional R&E networks,” said Yoshimi. “His persistence and energy in promoting effective collaboration among diverse agendas has earned the respect of leaders in diverse communities. While his efforts are rooted in advanced technologies, he always looks for practical benefits for education, research, and socio-economic development. In recent years, with his elevation to President of the University of Hawai’i, David has continued to support conversations between and among his peers both nationally and internationally, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region.”

Lassner has been involved with two key projects that are critical to the future of the Asia-Pacific region. He has served as PI since the inception of the Pacific Islands Research and Education Network (PIREN), which provides domestic support (with CENIC’s assistance) for Australia’s Academic and Research Network’s (AARNet) 2 x 100 Gbps links, as well as critical connectivity to major astronomy sites at Mauna Kea and Haleakala. Through PIREN, Lassner and UH have been champions of bringing high-speed R&E networking to the Pacific Islands.

The second project is a direct result of Lassner’s vision for PIREN: the creation of an international R&E exchange point for the Pacific Islands on Guam. Now a reality thanks to a collaboration of many R&E networks, led by UH, CENIC, AARNET, the University of Guam, and other regional R&E operators, the Guam Open Research & Education eXchange (GOREX) connects Guam to the University of Hawai’i and CENIC via a new SEA-US fiber-optic submarine cable. In addition to connecting to Guam at 100 Gpbs, GOREX will provide an open exchange point for Pacific regional research and education operators to strategically interconnect high capacity circuits at Guam, to share trans-Pacific routes and capacity to maximize high-capacity network efficiency and resiliency for mutual benefit. GOREX also helps support collaboration among many Pacific Island nations, with regional research and educational network operators, to support global reach and access.

“We can now conduct research at complex levels, not just for the sciences, but in other fields as well,” said UOG President Robert Underwood. “Think about the issues that we discuss as a society and how we make many decisions with limited data. GOREX gives our students and faculty the tools to truly exchange and analyze large amounts of data in any number of fields with other institutions all over the world. And as a university, it is our responsibility to report our findings back to the community. That’s the impact.”


Established in 2018, the CENIC Distinguished Service Award recognizes extraordinary individual service to the CENIC community and its partners and is named in honor of Dr. Christine Haska (1951-2017). Dr. Haska was a treasured member of the CENIC community, and led a life dedicated to bettering our world. She had a long career in higher education and in 2002 joined the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, where she served as the Vice President of Information Resources and as the Chief Information Officer. She played a vital role in establishing both NPS and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center as CENIC members. Retiring from NPS in 2013, Dr. Haska went on to successfully lead an initiative to connect the major health care institutions in Monterey to the CENIC network.

{image-5} Dr. Haska was well known by her family, colleagues, and friends as an exuberant personality with boundless energy and wide-ranging interests. She brought foresight, grace, and an innovative spirit to all her work, and remains an inspiration to colleagues working in research and education institutions across the nation.

The CENIC awards are presented each year at CENIC’s annual conference to highlight exemplary innovations that leverage ultra-high bandwidth networking, particularly innovations that have the potential to transform how instruction and research are conducted and further the deployment of broadband in underserved areas. The CENIC conference will be held March 5 – 7, 2018, in Monterey, California.

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