Willamette University

Bearcat Ohana

For decades now, Willamette has seen a substantial number of student-athletes come from Hawaii.

Part of it might be the draw of the West Coast and the liberal arts, but we also know that it has to do with strong relationships with Hawaii high schools (thank you, Office of Admission) and robust personal networking (thank you, alumni). Hawaiian students — of all interests — have become important parts of the Willamette community, and here we’ve chosen to focus on some of our top athletic contributors.

Joshua Wong '13

Joshua Wong ’13

Roads Taken

By Robert McKinney

Joshua Wong ’13 has put together an outstanding tennis season — even though he had to be convinced to play in college.

This spring, Wong finished regular-season singles play at 14-3 overall and was ranked as high as sixth in the Division III West Region. He and freshman Sam Wexman ’16 proved a stellar doubles combination during the same period, and Wong’s various successes earned him his fourth First Team All-Northwest Conference selection.

All of this when tennis wasn’t even on his mind as an incoming freshman. The studious Hilo High School grad has always focused primarily on academics, but a seemingly inconsequential question about his interests on an admission form — and a subsequent call from Willamette’s tennis coach — made him think that studies and athletics might go well together after all.

Thanks to the gentle push, he’s shined in both pursuits, showing once again why student-athlete multitaskers do so well at Willamette.

Read more about Wong in an in-depth profile online at willamette.edu/athletics.

Julia Brand ’15

Julia Brand ’15

“Being such a close-knit group has helped us get through some tough times.”

Guided to Willamette

By Timothy Walsh ’13

When Julia Brand ’15 leads a group of prospective students on a tour of Willamette’s campus, she answers a lot of questions. But there’s one thing she never tells the future Bearcats.

“I actually didn’t visit before coming here, which I guess is a little weird,” she says, laughing. “I went with my gut feeling instead.”

That’s not to say that Brand, a native of Hawaii, didn’t do her homework before coming to Salem. She relied on the large community of Bearcats who live in Hawaii to fill her in on what she’d experience in the central Willamette Valley.

“Hawaii is small — everybody knows everybody,” Brand says. “I was able to talk to current Willamette students, alumni, parents of current students — what really impressed me was how excited these people were about Willamette.”

She wasn’t alone. A classmate of hers, Daena Mau ’15, also came to Willamette from Punahou School, a high school that has yielded many Bearcats over the years.

Brand’s first true Willamette experience came in August 2011, when she participated in Ohana, one of Willamette’s Jump Start programs prior to Opening Days. “Ohana,” which is Hawaiian for “family,” is designed to help students from diverse backgrounds adjust to college life.

“There were a lot of backgrounds represented there,” Brand says. “It was a great experience, and lots of us still hang out today.”

Having experienced a beautiful Oregon summer that August, she admits that Oregon’s rainy winters caught her off guard. But the Willamette community helped make her move from the islands to the mainland easier.

“Being away from home was a big transition, but the small-school atmosphere really helps,” she says.

“The amount of people who were willing to help was incredible.” Willamette also provided Brand with the opportunity to play basketball in the competitive Northwest Conference (NWC). The NWC, which sent three women’s basketball teams to the NCAA Division III national tournament this year, has long relied on a pipeline of Hawaiian talent. Most NWC schools have one or more key players from Hawaii, Brand observes.

The Willamette forward, who also serves as a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative for women’s basketball, started all 25 games for the Bearcats this year. She reached double figures in scoring six times, and in a home contest against archrival Linfield College, helped Willamette earn a critical 58-49 win.

Like the rest of Willamette’s roster — which featured just one senior this season — Brand figures to have a promising future on the court. Playing for a young program in such a tough conference has been challenging, but not discouraging, she says.

“You have such great relationships and experiences with your teammates. Being such a close-knit group has helped us get through some tough times.”

An easygoing sociology major, Brand jokingly describes herself as “sort of a yes-man” who signs on for many of the opportunities that come her way. She serves as a community mentor in her residence hall. She was also involved with this year’s annual luau and plans to spend this summer in Japan to help her elderly grandmother.

Still, nothing Willamette-related excites her quite as much as giving tours to prospective students.

“I love meeting new people; I especially love meeting people from Hawaii,” she says. “I really feel happy here, and I’m enthusiastic about my school.”

And it’s all courtesy of some Hawaii-based Bearcats who connected her to this place, sight unseen.

Today's Snapshot:

Hawai’i (The Big Island)

Hilo High School Josh Wong ’13 Men’s Tennis
St. Joseph School Gunnar Lee ’16 M Men’s Tennis
Waiakea High School Macy Hayashi ’16 Volleyball
Kayla Kosaki ’13 Women’s Swimming
Stephanie Matsuura ’16 Women’s Tennis
Kealakehe High School Malia Santos ’16 Women’s Swimming
Tyler Yates ’16 Men’s Soccer
Kamuela (Waimea)
Hawaii Preparatory Academy Yasu Miyakawa ’16 M Men’s Track and Field
Kulananalu Tarnas ’16 Men's Swimming


Kauai High School Matt Parr ’13 Football


Lahainaluna High School Blaze Rogers ’13 Football
Seabury Hall Devin Vinoray ’16 Track


Iolani School Tiras Koon ’15 Baseball
La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls Shannon Waltz ’14 Volleyball
Punahou School Elizabeth Balding ’14 Volleyball
Julia Brand ’15 Women’s Basketball
Keenan-Celtic Faatea ’15 Football
Roleen Himuro ’15 Baseball
Julian Juarez ’16 Men’s Soccer
Andrew Lum ’16 Men’s Swimming
Daena Mau ’15 Women’s Basketball
University High School Ben Keller ’16 Football