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Dr. Tusi Avegalio hosts ‘ava ceremony to mark his retirement from UH

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Well known advocate of economic development that weaves indigenous wisdom, values of aloha, healing, ohana and spirituality with modern science, knowledge, and technology, Papalii Dr. Failautusi Avegalio has retired.

Dr. Avegalio, oft called Dr. ‘Tusi’ has served for decades as the director of the University of Hawaii Pacific Business Center Program (PBCP) under the University of Hawaii at Manoa — Office of the Vice President of Research and Innovation.

A consummate educator, prior to heading the PBCP, the American Samoa native served as president of the American Samoa Community College, was on the faculty of UH-Manoa and taught for many years in the ASG school system.

He is also known locally for the work he has done in promoting the economic development of ‘ulu’  or breadfruit as a ‘flour’.

To mark his retirement, Dr. Tusi hosted an ‘ava ceremony, and presented traditional sua and gifts to University of Hawaii officials. The ceremony was held on Monday at the President’s Mansion College Hill at Manoa.

Among the guests were UH President David Lassner, Vice President of Research and Innovation Dr Vassilis Syrmos, Board of Regents member Ernie Wilson and Director of Innovation and Commercialization Steve Auerbach as well as friends, fans and family.

In his inimitable way Dr. Tusi wrote,  “as the last mooring line to be untied before casting off to capture the fair winds of the vast Moana,” ‘ava and the presentation of the ‘ava bowls and traditional gifts is the highest salute of honor and respect rendered as a retirement gift to the University of Hawaii by Papalii.

The ‘ava bowl is to be used in perpetuity in the hosting and receiving of students, traditional leaders, and officials from Oceania to Manoa.

The ‘ava ceremony is the highest level of protocol of humility, respect, aloha, healing and gratitude served to and from ranking Alii of Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and Pohnpei of the Federated States of Micronesia.”

Special acknowledgement was extended to PBCP staff and ohana who worked with Dr. Tusi over the decades.”


Dr. Tusi’s mantra for effective leadership is that ‘Good leaders lead. Great leaders heal.” At PBCP, he received numerous national, regional and local awards for innovation, creativity and leadership that included “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the U.S. Western States in 2009 and being recognized as one of the top 6 facilitators in the State of Hawaii by Dr. Sam Kaner, a national and international expert on collaborative decision-making as part of the Collaborative Leaders Network supported by the Omidyar family.

He was also a recipient of the 2017 annual Community Resilience Leadership Award by the University of Hawaiʻi NDPTC (National Disaster Preparedness Training Center) for, “His deep understanding of community processes and a lasting commitment to social justice and capability building.”

As a community leader, he has promoted learning about resilience and food security throughout Hawai‘i and the Pacific Islands. He has played a special role in advising and leading the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center in its efforts to build and sustain resilient communities, according to NDPTC Executive Director Dr. Karl Kim.

He is one of the organizational planners with Kahu Kalani Souza of Olohana Foundation, Hawaii Pacific University Pacific Islands Leadership Institute Director Kumu Ramsay Taum, Haskell Indian Nations University administrator Dr. Dan Wildcat and NOAA Official Bill Thomas who engendered the birth and establishment of Raising Voices led by co-founders Attorney Bob Gough and Dr. Heather Lazrus of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

“Raising Voices is now a national organization of indigenous peoples that has expanded globally. Raising Voices is the major networking hub for First Nations tribes of North America, Polynesians, Micronesian, and Melanesians from Oceania, and native peoples of Mexico, Central, South America and the Caribbean.”

Dr. Tusi is a national and international expert on cross cultural dynamics, collaborative decision-making, organizational development, theory and leadership.

PBCP has placed five finalists with the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) National Awards of Excellence annual competition consecutively from 2019 to 2022 with two national winners, making it one of the most award-winning programs of its type in the nation.

He also has been the primary organizer of global events, such as the Annual Global Breadfruit Summit inaugurated in American Samoa in 2013 with the support of the Omidyar family to promote traditional means of regenerative agricultural for food security, health and resilience.

According to the statement, another global event is the University of Hawai‘i Stars of Oceania, inaugurated in 2006, which recognizes the contributions of Pacific Islanders to the State, Nation and World.

Both programs have continued to date with the most recent convened at the Hawaii Convention Center as the 2022 Stars of Oceania and Global Breadfruit Summit back-to-back events in Honolulu.

Dr. Tusi and his wife Linda reside in Hauula on the Windward Coast of Oahu, where he serves on the Koolauloa neighborhood board.