‘Iolani Peace Institute

 

Established to honor Dr. Berit Mexia,
a longtime inspirational faculty member.

Our mission is to promote peace inside and outside
the 'Iolani community in three forms:
inner peace, peace among people,
and peace with the natural environment.

To accomplish our mission, we will support appropriate
activities already being done by existing organizaitons
and also generate our own programs, such
as guest speakers, conferences, and active endeavors
that bring harmony to people's lives and to the world.

Director: Peter Greenhill
Committee members: Alan Suemori, John Bickel,
Jan Motoshige, David Caldwell, Kimi Frith, Cheryl Wong,
Kirk Uejio, Cate Waidyatilleka, Allison Ishii,
Debbie Millikan, Nicole Simopoulos-Pigato, Zachary Linnert

To find out how to help the Iolani Peace Institute, email
pgreenhi [at] iolani.org or call 808-943-2325

Video above courtesy of Pillars of Peace Hawai‘i program
of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation

 

MEXIA PEACE ESSAY CONTEST WINNERS

By Ken-Ben Chao '13
 
By Austin Chikamoto '13
 
 

DR. BERIT MEXIA

Berit Mexia Ph.D. taught French, German and philosophy at ‘Iolani School from 1964 to 1997, where she influenced the global thinking of thousands of students.

Born in Norway in 1935, she studied modern existential theory in the Black Forest of Germany and received her doctorate from the University of Hawai’i.

A renowned scholar on the works of Kierkegaard and Heidegger, she was as unassuming as she was inspiring, forever greeted around campus as “Frau Mexia.” Years ahead of her time introducing abstract thought to high school students, she brought to life the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Kafka, Rilke, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Freud, Jung, Buber, Frankl, Fromm, Lao-tzu and King.

Her spirit of inquiry was never heavy-handed; quite the contrary, her style was to assign what appeared to be a difficult reading selection, then extract the basic concepts of those multifaceted pages in a class guided Socratic Dialogue, and then step back and let her students ardently debate the relative merits of the ideas in play. Just before the end-of-class bell would ring, she would heroically identify the key concept her students had missed, and gently leave them with that button as the suddenly obvious day’s takeaway.

She was never judgmental, yet always challenging. She changed the world in her own quiet way by causing students to think in ways they never imagined possible. She was genuinely kind, infused with immense charm, and she brought uncommon light and a sense of shared purpose into every classroom she led.

The Peace Institute at ‘Iolani School named in Dr. Mexia’s honor is a fitting tribute to her life’s work and world view, a creative openness that crossed cultures, borders and barriers in the service of bringing people together through worldly idealism and literary adventure. Whenever stuck for a metaphor in life’s complexity, she would remind us to study the simplicity of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, forever cheering us on to live, love and laugh.