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A Voyage of Faith to BYU–Hawaii

As the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) marks its 60th anniversary this week, we take a look at one of its most pivotal figures who has been instrumental in shaping its past, present, and future: Alfred Grace. Acting as the current President of the PCC, President Grace not only credits his early days as a student employee to this culture-rich center but also to the place that made his employment and education possible: Brigham Young University–Hawaii.

President Grace's story is a testament to the transformative power of education, gospel values, and the spirit of Christ, serving as an inspiring example for all who walk the same path.

President Alfred Grace standing in front of the Aotearoa Village at the Polynesian cultural Center.
Photo by Monique Saenz

A Voyage to BYUH

Hailing from the small town of Tūrangi, New Zealand, President Grace’s interest in BYU–Hawaii was sparked while he was completing an apprenticeship in engineering here in Laie. The rise of Hawaii’s tourism industry captivated President Grace as the same thing was happening back in his home country. After completing the apprenticeship, President Grace then applied to BYU–Hawaii in 1983. 

In reminiscing about his time at BYU–Hawaii, President Grace shared, “I came to school with the main goal of becoming a tour operator for New Zealand. My journey here in BYU–Hawaii and the PCC provided me with the knowledge and experiences that really shaped my career in the tourism sector.”

Experiences at BYUH

President Grace credits BYU–Hawaii for teaching him values such as “respect, kindness, forgiveness, and graciousness” that has left an enduring imprint on his life. These values played a role in his personal and professional growth, aligning with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which President Grace joined when he was 19 years old.

He also enjoyed the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ’s constant presence at the school, as it continues to offer students a spiritual environment to cultivate their faith and connect with other people who shared their values. President Grace highlights, “the gospel being present here in BYUH was crucial to me as a convert of the Church. It allowed me to develop my testimony and provided me fellowship with my brothers and sisters here and other like-minded individuals.”

Tips for Students of BYUH

Drawing from his own journey, President Grace offered valuable guidance to current and prospective BYUH students.

He urges students to embrace the institution's unchanging mission because it provides “a unique and uplifting experience that blesses and inspires lives,” emphasizing that this should extend to every part of their lives. He urges students to radiate the spirit of Christ in their interactions, both within the campus community and beyond. Additionally, he encourages students to take on the role of becoming peacemakers in a world often filled with conflict, signaling their responsibility to foster harmony in their personal lives and the communities around them.

Tips for Student Employees at the PCC

As the PCC celebrates its 60th anniversary, President Grace highlights the paramount importance of preserving its rich legacy, especially its pivotal role in offering employment opportunities and work experiences to BYUH students over the last six decades. He imparts the following guidance to the student employees of PCC.

Firstly, he encourages student employees to mark this 60-year milestone by constantly reminding guests of the PCC’s mission:, “to be a unique treasure that supports education by sharing to the world the cultures, diversity, and the spirit of the nations of Polynesia.”

Secondly, he urges all student employees to infuse their interactions with a spirit of genuine warmth and hospitality that embodies the values shared as students of BYUH, PCC employees, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lastly, he emphasizes that a student employee should fully embrace the PCC’s heritage and legacy during this special year by reaffirming their commitment to continually improve and progress as people so they can carry the PCC’s traditions into the future.

President Grace’s journey from New Zealand to BYU–Hawaii and his subsequent leadership at the PCC have been a great blessing to student employees who work there. His integration of faith, education, and service at both places highlights that BYU–Hawaii molds disciples of Christ, fostering more generations to fulfill the prophetic destiny of BYU–Hawaii not just to the Pacific, but to all nations around the world.