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by Jeff Harada, associate athletic director

During college, students must learn how to prioritize, balancing school work, extracurricular activities, family, and often a job.

At HPU, student athletes quickly become skilled at the balancing act, as HPU is committed to seeing each student athlete succeed in the classroom.

“ We call our students, student athletes, because the emphasis is on both roles—students first, and athletes second,” said Vice President for Student Activities Jeff Philpott.

“ Athletics provides HPU students with a foundation to learn. The commitment to balance the demands of the classroom and the playing field is not easy; however, the support system we have in place at HPU gives them the opportunity to succeed at both. Our goal is to have every student athlete earn a degree from HPU,” Philpott added.

Three former student athletes share how Hawai‘i Pacific University helped shape their lives.
Benny Agbayani is living his dream, playing professional baseball.

Agbayani was an all-state player at Saint Louis High School, and honed his skills at Hawai‘i Pacific from 1989-93, achieving All-American status. He still holds several school records, including most career stolen bases, as well as home runs, in a season.

“ Playing at HPU was a great experience for me,” said Agbayani.

“The relationships I’ve built, and the support I’ve received from day one until now has been tremendous.”

In 2000, as a member of the New York Mets, he played an integral role in leading his team to the World Series (the Mets lost to the New York Yankees for the championships). Now playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan, he provided clutch hits as the team won the Japan Series and the Asia Series Championships in 2005.

In 2003, Agbayani graduated from HPU with a degree in human services.

“ You never know when your career may end, and it’s good to have that degree as a backup,” he said.

“ Benny has been a great ambassador for the sport of baseball, the state of Hawai’i, and his alma mater, Hawai’i Pacific University,” said HPU President Chatt Wright.

Agbayani heads the MYTH foundation (Motivate Yourself to The Highest), helping support and educate kids about the skills needed to succeed as a baseball player.

The daughter of former Hawai‘i “Fab Five” basketball star John Penebacker, Dawn Penebacker was born with athleticism in her blood.

She fell in love with volleyball, playing all four years at University High School. Penebacker became a dominant middle blocker for the HPU women’s volleyball team from 1996-99. She was an integral part of the 1998 NCAA National Championship team.

“ Dawn gave 110 percent of herself all the time,” said former Head Coach Tita Ahuna. “She grew into a dominating force at the net by her junior year.”

A graduate in human resources development, Penebacker, who now works for Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, is still HPU’s career leader in solo blocks.

“ There’s no other experience in life like being a student athlete,” she added. “Enjoy your time at HPU, but don’t forget to think about what you’re going to do after college and your playing days are over.”

The time Lynette (Williams) Dias spent as a student athlete helped ease her transition into life after college.

Dias began playing softball in the Mililani-Waipio Bobby Sox League and went on to star at Sacred Hearts Academy before taking her bat and glove to HPU.

“ I chose HPU because of the class sizes, and I wanted to play in front of my family,” Dias said.
Dias helped HPU advance to the national tournament and was named to the All-National Tournament Team and first team NAIA All-American, and is tied for HPU’s most games played in a season.

“ My teammates and what we went through gave us a bond that we’ll share for life,” said Dias. “Whether something happened on or off the field, sharing it with them is something I’ll always remember.”

She graduated in 1999 with a degree in justice administration and now works as a correctional officer at the Federal Detention Center.

“ Being a student athlete at HPU helped prepare me for the real world and the demands put on you everyday,” she said.

“ There may be times when playing sports and going to school seem to take up a lot of your time, but it will teach you to manage time properly, and pay off in your future.”


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