Dr. Kim Weol-Soon Rupnow passed away on October 16, 2015 at the age of 61, having lived a determined, successful, and full life despite cancer. Rupnow began her career in the UH Mānoa College of Education (COE) as a lecturer and student before becoming an assistant professor in the college’s Center on Disability Studies (CDS) in 1993. Promoted to associate professor in 2007, she would continue her research and projects through her illness.
A close friend and colleague, former CDS Director Robert Stodden, said, “Kim was one of the highly successful researchers and grant competitors within CDS. At times, it was obvious that she was enduring unbearable pain, yet she expressed optimism and appreciation for the many positive things in her life. She loved her family and being part of everything. Her presence often made the day for everyone, and she will be sorely missed.”
Born in Chonbuk, Korea, Rupnow earned a BFA in applied arts from Duksung Women’s College and an MEd in educational psychology from Ewha Womans University. She served as a primary and secondary school teacher for the Ministry of Education in Seoul, South Korea before coming to the United States. Arriving at the COE in the 1980s as a master’s student in curriculum and instruction, she held various positions within the university, including lecturer, counselor, microcomputer specialist, evaluator, and research assistant.
“Soon was one of the most courageous women I have ever known,” said Associate Professor Jean Johnson. “She prevailed for almost ten years against awesome challenges, and she was fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband and a competent and collaborative staff that enabled her to continue her contributions well beyond any reasonable expectation.”
After earning her PhD in educational psychology in 1991, Rupnow led several successful research and grant-based projects. She maintained many professional memberships and published numerous books, book chapters, and presentations. An accomplished watercolor artist, she was the recipient of national art competition awards as well as student achievement and research awards. More recently, Rupnow authored a book about her experiences with cancer that was published in Korea and will soon be translated into English.
CDS Director JoAnn Yuen said, “Soon’s research is part of my academic pedigree. Together with Peter Dowrick, we created positive literacy experiences and supports for at-risk youth. The skills and knowledge she shared live on in the faculty, staff, students, and teachers that filled her classrooms. She embraced her life with grace, passion, and faith.”