A Hawaiian vacation

Hefling enjoys trip to Honolulu courtesy of former students

The gold watch was nice and it certainly was nice to hear the kind words at his retirement reception, but what Joel Hefling will remember about his final semester after 42 years at SDSU was the sand.p12-Hefling-at-Polynesian-Cultural-Center

Sand from Waikiki Beach, where he visited thanks to a gift from his former students.

That’s right, Todd Holm ’88 and others who learned the skill of persuasive speech from Hefling opened up their checkbooks to purchase an airline ticket to send him to Hawaii, where he spent nearly two weeks last winter.

“I still can’t believe they pooled their money and kept something secret so well,” Hefling says almost a year later.

He left at the end of January for Honolulu, where a retired colleague from Mankato State University spends six weeks each winter. So the speech teachers made numerous excursions from the condo of Larry Schnoor, whose Honolulu abode is only two blocks from Waikiki Beach.

A collaborative effort

Holm says about 20 people contributed some $1,500 to give their favorite teacher a memorable gift.

Hefling joined the faculty in 1970, right after completing his master’s degree in speech at Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State). He began work with the SDSU forensics program in 1974 and those duties took him throughout most of the nation

But never to Hawaii.

Holm was determined to change that. Hefling recalls, “Early in fall semester, he (Holm) said something about going to Hawaii, and I thought he was joking. I didn’t think anything about it.” However, Holm kept thinking about it, and then he shared the idea with others.

“When I mentioned the idea at a National Communication Association convention (in November 2011), there was no hesitation in people’s minds,” Holm says.

“I would walk up to an SDSU alum and say ‘We are sending Hefling to Hawaii for a week or two. Do you want to contribute $25, $50 or $100?’ The unspoken assumption was they wanted to contribute. Nearly all immediately said, ‘Put me down for $100,’” Holm recalls.

Alums surprised their teacher

p12-Hefling-at-Hawaii's-North-ShoreIn December 2011, Holm contacted Hefling again. Holm said his former teacher’s first reaction was “‘No, you guys don’t need to do this.’”

Holm responded, “‘You don’t understand. This is a done deal. When can you go?’”

Hefling says, “I told him that this was too much for him to undertake, then he revealed he was having some assistance. They’re all teaching, so they’re not rolling in money. I was clueless (to their plan). I had no idea it was going on. I was really surprised.”

Even in Honolulu, Hefling says, “I told Larry (Schnoor), I can’t believe it is happening, and he just smiled.”

Hefling did plenty of smiling in Hawaii as well. “I felt like I was getting the royal treatment. I got a walking tour of the Waikiki Beach community. One day we went on a bus tour of the island. One day we were at the Polynesian Cultural Center. We spent most of a day touring the royal palace in Honolulu.”

Holm has prized picture

Then there was the convenience store.

Holm had told Hefling that all he required was a picture of Hefling in a grass skirt. At the convenience store there was a package with a plastic lei and skirt. Schnorr snapped a photo of Hefling in the skirt in the privacy of the condo, sent it to Holm and destroyed the image, he claims.

Hefling was invited by Schnorr to return to Honolulu this January. If he does, he said it will be without the grass skirt.

Dave Graves

Leave a Reply