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By Mark Brians. April 3, 2015 - 9:38 am
He is older now and aging still. The white and grey hair of a grown-out military cut carries the remains of the baseball cap he took off upon entering the newsroom.
“My beautiful diggs” he says as we walk into his office, picking-up his blue-glass coffee mug, which he fills from the water cooler before taking a seat at the long boardroom table.
John Windrow, HPU professor in the Communications department and faculty advisor for the Kalamalama, was born in rural Tennessee where he worked a cotton farm and his dad also ran a little gas station (the gas station as far as certain inhabitants of the area where concerned).
“I was the first person in my family, except for one aunt and one great uncle, to graduate from college” he tells me.
“I majored in English, just because I liked to read…” he says as he opens the morning mail, crunching a throat lozenge. “Probably would have had a heck of a time finding a job… there was kind of a recession going on then, but I took a commission in the Navy and went to sea for four years.”
Upon leaving the Navy, Windrow married and moved to San Francisco.
“I tended bar for a year or so in San Francisco, which I really liked… I was with my first wife then who was finishing a graduate degree in English at Berkeley,” he explains.
Together they saved a lot of money which they used to travel Europe for a year.
“So we went to Boston and got on a Polish freighter and went to Rotterdam and basically went all over Europe for a good while” he tells me, recounting the different places he and his wife travelled. “But then my wife got sick and the doctors said I needed to take her home.”
Returning to the states Windrow used his GI Bill to complete a Masters in Journalism at the University of Missouri and began working for the San Antonio Light, a daily afternoon paper in Texas.
Windrow then took a job writing for Stars and Stripes in Germany after building rapport with the then managing editor of the paper at a bar in San Antonio.
“In ’84 my father was murdered by a pair of escaped convicts and I had to go home for a long time, of course, to try and straighten things up” he says looking down at the piece of paper he has been folding between his fingers, “and that kinda put me outta kilter for a while.”
It was at this time, he explains, that he and his first wife divorced.
Single again, Windrow moved to Minnesota and took a job with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He worked there for eleven years, eventually meeting the woman who would become his second wife.
“It was great except for the climate” he remarks, “the climate’s just terrible, the winters are just harsh.”
He got a second Masters at the University of Minnesota which was paid for by the paper.
“And I was going to get a doctorate in Mass Communication but the same week I got accepted for it, I got a job offer with the then Honolulu Advertiser” he explains.
“We both just decided to go. We were both tired of the winters.” He explains also that his new wife being Filipino, was tired of “feeling like the only Filipino in the Twin Cities… people kept thinking she was an Eskimo or something.”
He chuckles and explains that he loved Hawaii and his work at the old Honolulu Advertiser until it merged with the Honolulu Star Bulletin.
He had already been teaching as an adjunct faculty member at HPU and was offered a full-time position teaching journalism around the time that the merger occurred.
Later he became the faculty advisor for the Kalamalama.
He says that the highlight of his time at HPU has been the working with the students.
“The students… are very bright, highly motivated, and come from all over the world to study together” he says. This has made teaching at HPU a very enjoyable experience for him. I love teaching, it’s a great job.”
Windrow is one of several faculty members who are a part of a phase-out program which seeks to transition out-going faculty from their current positions over time, trying to avoid as many sudden shifts in faculty as possible.
“Well I’m 66, I’ll be retiring next year… and I own a little condo in the county I grew-up in, and my wife has a home in the Philippines… my wife is a writer, she got a novel published…” he tells me, explaining that they’ll probably split their time between both locations, possibly punctuating their retirement with further travel.
He shares with me his dreams of Asian cities he’d like to see, health permitting, others that he’d like to see again.
“There will always be journalism” he says with confidence, “and there will always be papers.”
“People will always want the news,” he explains, leaning back in his chair, and “there will always be people who want the news so that they can hold it in their hands.”
I suppose what he means is that in such a digital age as ours, the very materiality of the paper, feels like evidence of our own existence in digitized socialization. But I could be wrong, he could just mean that people like to print stuff.
“The future of the Kalamalama is good” he tells me, commenting on the transition onto a web-only format. He lists multiple reasons for his positive forecast: “The students like getting their news online, it’s cheaper to run it online, we continue to get very bright staff members, and it lends itself to social media” he adds, flicking his wrist at the words “social media”, as if they were some unsolvable riddle which, however complicated, demanded propitiation.
“We’re getting a new Advisor, Nicole Kato-Kang” he says, speaking glowingly of her being “the right choice” to take over as he transitions out.
John Windrow has advised the Kalamalama for a while now. He has mentored and supported waves of graduate and undergraduate students in their writing and study. He also was a part of overseeing the transition to an online format.
As he now transitions his advisory authority over to Nicole Kato-Kang, we want to thank him for the work he has done.
We also want to formally welcome Nicole Kato-Kang onboard as she transitions into her new position.
As we say ‘Aloha’ to John Windrow next year, and as we welcome our new advisor, my mind is drawn to the words of our school motto: Holomua Me Ka ‘Oia’i’o.
Photo by Mark Brians.