Saunders Hall

ALLAN SAUNDERS (1897-1989) University of Hawai'i political science professor was a dedicated advocate for civil liberties, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that his legacy includes the time he championed the aloha shirt.

Saunders was born in Cransford, N.J., in 1897. He never finished high school, choosing instead during his junior year to go to Amherst College, where he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. After several Mainland teaching jobs, Saunders arrived in Hawai'i in 1945, just after World War II. He had a one-year contract at UH but remained for 21 years, serving as a professor, a leader in the faculty senate and as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin photo

Saunders arrived on the cusp of Hawai'i's social revolution and drive for statehood, and his impact was felt throughout the community. On one occasion, while watching Democratic Party officials struggling at their convention at McKinley High School in 1946, Saunders stepped in and helped write three planks on the party platform.

He is credited with starting the Hawai'i chapters of the League of Women Voters, in 1948, and the American Civil Liberties Union, in 1965. He helped establish the state Constitution and the State Ethics Commission, and was involved in the reform of Hawai'i's penal code in 1966.

But every UH faculty member wearing an aloha shirt today owes Saunders a small debt as well. In 1953, when the governor banned the wearing of aloha shirts by territorial employees, Saunders formed "Faculty Wearers of Aloha Shirts, Tails Out." Their rejection of neckties carried the day.

Saunders died at home in 1989. He was 91. In October 2001, the Social Sciences Building (formerly Porteus Hall) was renamed Saunders Hall in honor of Allan and his wife, educator Marion Saunders.



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