John Radcliffe, our friend and staunch advocate of University of Hawai‘i faculty, died on Tuesday, August 11. With the same fierce determination, courage, and tenacity to protect and defend the rights of faculty, he fought a six-year battle with cancer to the very end. He was 78 years old.
John served as associate executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) for 16 years, working with his long-time friend JN Musto, who was executive director at the time. John served from September 1991 to January 2007, and then served as a lobbyist on behalf of UHPA until June 2016.
“We have lost someone who had a deep understanding of people and politics,” said Christian Fern, UHPA’s executive director. “He worked relentlessly to advocate for fairness and had strong relationships based on years of mutual respect and trust. He was the consummate networker and was able to remember people’s names and took the time to learn about them. This made him warmly welcomed with all those he encountered.”
“His contributions endure today. He helped secure the rights and freedom faculty and others enjoy today and leaves behind an excellent model of caring for us to emulate,” Christian said.
John believed in the power of solidarity and collective bargaining. Before he joined UHPA, John was the executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association for 13 years. He came to Hawaii in 1975 from Virginia to lead HSTA and immediately hit the ground running to address the substandard working conditions for teachers. He was driven by his own experiences as he had been a teacher himself earlier in his career.
In recent years, John became a familiar face and spokesperson for Hawaii’s Our Care, Our Choice Act. After nearly 20 years of controversial debate and grassroots mobilization in the community, the Hawaii State Legislature passed bills for medical aid-in-dying, which was signed into law by Gov. David Ige in 2018 to be effective in January 2019. John was a beneficiary of this work, choosing to end his life on a high note with a prescription at his home this week.
John leaves behind a legacy of feats, accomplishments, and acts that few can emulate, but from which tens of thousands will continue to benefit for decades to come.
Mahalo to John for all his outstanding contributions! We will miss you, but your irrepressible triumphant spirit will always be with us.