Parker in rarified company as Mahalo Award winner

For anyone who thinks graduate school is a cakewalk to be entered into lightly, consider the case of Margy Parker.

Parker, former executive director of the Poipu Beach Resort Association, because of her hectic schedule in graduate school at the University of Oregon in Eugene, couldn’t get away to personally accept one of the biggest awards leaders of the state’s visitor industry bestow on anyone.

Student presentations took precedence over rubbing elbows with some of the most powerful business, government and industry leaders in the state at the Hawai’i Visitors & Convention Bureau 103rd Annual Luncheon, she said.

“It’s a seven-day-a-week job being a student,” said Parker, who added that she had no idea going in to graduate school how much reading and research students are expected to complete.

In the master’s-degree program for communications in society, Parker said she felt she would get thrashed by her instructors if she missed the mandatory student presentations due each week to attend the HVCB luncheon and receive a prestigious Mahalo Award that this year was given only to her, Walter Dods of First Hawaiian Bank, and Peter Schall of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

All have left their previous positions, Dods and Schall to retire, Parker to pursue her master’s degree.

When invited to Honolulu to accept the award two weeks before the recent ceremony, Parker said, “I was completely surprised, very flattered, and it made me miss Hawai’i even more.

“I was pretty blown away.”

Parker was cited for how instrumental she was in moving Po’ipu and Kaua’i into the fore-front of visitor destinations, especially for visitors from the Mainland, she said.

Thinking out loud, she said she had been involved on various HVCB or Kaua’i Visitors Bureau boards for 20 to 22 straight years.

“Needless to say, I was deeply honored that HVCB chose to give me a Mahalo Award. The 20-plus years I’d served on committees, boards and task forces for HVCB and KVB were not only enjoyable, but a learning experience for me,” Parker said.

“It was actually my privilege to be involved. Hopefully, I can continue to contribute from afar while in grad school, and definitely be able to contribute again when I’m wrapped up here at University of Oregon,” she said.

Parker founded PBRA in September 1982, and up until a few months ago was the first and only executive director. One of her first big challenges was helping those in the resort area recover from Hurricane ‘Iwa in November 1982.

Parker persevered, and before long Po’ipu began to thrive. From five original charter members, PBRA under Parker’s leadership and tutelage grew into a 150-member organization.

During her tenure, she was instrumental in generating national exposure for Po’ipu with some innovative marketing and advertising campaigns.

As the years passed, Po’ipu prospered, and Parker’s influence can be seen everywhere in helping to create this award-winning visitor destination, not just for Kaua’i, but the entire state, an HVCB spokesperson said.

Parker’s accomplishments are not lost on Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau and on more than one occasion named one of the world’s most powerful women in tourism.

“I’ve really looked up to her,” Kanoho said. The two would call each other frequently for advise. “I turned to her much more than she turned to me.”

There is obviously a mutual-admiration society at work here.

Parker is “one of the key, key people to turn to, and she gets the job done,” and is deserving of the Mahalo Award, Kanoho continued.

Kanoho accepted the award on Parker’s behalf, and will present it to Parker when she comes back to Kaua’i later this month.

The award “acknowledges at a statewide perspective her contributions. She has had a reach far beyond Kaua’i,” Kanoho said.

Kanoho aspires to be more like Parker in the way Parker was able to work hard and play hard while PBRA executive director, finding time to kayak, hike and take trips that weren’t always workrelated, Kanoho said.

Kanoho also accepted a Maile Award, the highest honor HVCB officials give to anyone, on behalf of Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste and the County of Kaua’i. Baptiste was also not able to attend the luncheon on O’ahu.

Leaders of all four county governments, celebrating their centennials this year, were honored with Maile Awards for their support of tourism, and for giving the state’s top industry the infrastructure and basic services necessary for it to flourish, this year at a record clip, an HVCB spokes-person said.

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