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Regent, PR exec visits Com classes

by Kalamalama staff



HPU communication students and faculty got to hear one of Honolulu’s top public relations practitioners, Kitty Lagareta, Chairman and CEO of Communications-Pacific and vice chair of the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents.

Lagareta spoke in Warmer Auditorium on Nov. 4 at the invitation of adjunct communication instructor Kerry Kent Gershaneck, who originally asked her to speak to his class and then opened the invitation to other faculty and students.


Lagareta spoke first about the practice of public relations and described what PR interns or young practitioners are expected to do at Communications-Pacific, a company she has been associated with since she joined it in 1986. She also had some good advice for the audience about the kind of professionalism she expects from those who are accepted for positions with the company, regardless of their level of education.

Communications-Pacific was acquired, in the early 1990s by a mainland firm, Hill & Knowlton, and renamed Hill & Knowlton Hawai‘i. Frustrated by the inability of mainland management to respond quickly to Hawai‘i concerns, Lagareta left the company and in 1994 helped found Hawai‘i Online, the state’s oldest and for years its largest Internet service provider.

In 1995, Hill & Knowlton asked Lagareta to manage the company. She agreed, with the understanding that she had an option to buy it. In 1996 she and her partners sold Hawai‘i Online to a telecommunications company, and in 1998, she successfully negotiated a buy-back of Communications-Pacific from Hill & Knowlton and reinstated its original name.

Before joining Communications-Pacific in the ‘80s, Lagareta was a founding board member and the first executive director of Hawai‘i’s Ronald McDonald House. Later, she served as vice president of the Kapi‘olani Health Foundation and as president of the Rotary Club of Honolulu. Among the organizations on whose boards she serves are: Enterprise Honolulu and HiBEAM (Hawai‘i Business Entrepreneur and Acceleration Mentors), Hawai‘i Justice Foundation, and Young CEOs and Community Entrepreneurs. She is a past member of the board of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i.

Pacific Business News named Lagareta its first “Businesswoman of the Year” in 1999. In 2002, Junior Achievement of Hawai‘i inducted her into the Hawai‘i Business Hall of Fame. In 2003, the Hawai‘i Chapter of the March of Dimes honored her with the Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Award for Distinguished Community Service, and the Pacific Gateway Center presented her its Community Building Award. She has received numerous awards for her work from the Hawai‘i chapters of both the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2003 PRSA-Hawai‘i honored her with its Gregg W. Perry Public Relations Professional of the Year Award.

In December 2002, Governor Linda Lingle asked Lagareta to chair the transition team for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and to identify top candidates for its director. In 2003, Lagareta was appointed to a four-year term as a Regent for the University of Hawai‘i system; she has been elected vice chair of the Board of Regents and was active in the board’s recent removal of former UH president Evan Dobelle.


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