Trust for the Future

Dawn (Kuhlmann) Harflinger ’96 almost died giving birth to her twins.

That’s the moment she decided she wanted to return to Hawai‘i and find a career where she could help others.

After graduating from Pacific University, Harflinger was living in the Portland area with her husband and two other children, working for the state of Oregon. The delivery of the youngest members of her family, though, came with complications — and an eye-opening insight.

“As soon as I got out of the hospital, I told my husband I wanted to go home,” Harflinger said. “I almost died. I want to go home now.

“I started applying for jobs that I thought would have meaning.”

In 2005, Harflinger became the director of investments at the Queen Lili’uokalani Trust, working with the investment portfolio of real estate, private investments and marketable securities both nationally and internationally.

“On the endowment side, we are the resources and tools to continue [Queen Lili‘uokalani’s] vision.”

Queen Lili’uokalani was the last reigning monarch in Hawai’i. She established the trust in 1909, and in 1911, she named orphaned and destitute children throughout Hawai’i as the primary beneficiaries.  

The revenue from the trust goes to The Children’s Center, a social service agency that directly serves around 11,000 children each year. The center assists families in developing cultural ties and ensuring children receive care and nurturing in the aftermath of tragedy.

“[Queen Lili‘uokalani] lost a lot of family members in her life. When she was building her trust, there were a lot of foreign diseases affecting the Hawaiian people. She wanted to help those people who were left,” Harflinger said. “She wanted to help people through that loss.”

That mission struck a chord with Harflinger, who lost her own father during her sophomore year at Pacific.

Harglinger credits her degree in accounting and English literature for her success in her position.

“I think I was studying for this job without knowing it,” Harflinger said. “I love the act of reading books and understanding how the author’s life impacted their writing. I love accounting, because it tells me what is going on with the company. So I think I was interested in investment without knowing it.”

Today, Harflinger uses these skills to make decisions on where the trust should invest and how investments should be adjusted.

“As a trust we wanted to balance out the equity for current and future generations. That’s what drives me. If whatever I do now ensures that someone 50 years from now gets help that’s something special,” she said.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, it’s a lot of fun, but it’s about making sure the trust is here 50 years from now. Trying my best to make sure that happens, and working with people that will care as much as I do; being a part of that, something that will last forever, that’s my favorite part."

Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014