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Christina O’Connor

Women In The Lead

Faye Kurren

It’s certainly not something you would expect to hear from one the state’s top business executives, but Hawaii Dental Service president and CEO Faye Kurren swears that she is hesitant to try new things. Yet trying new things has been what has made her eclectic career the successful journey it has been.

Over the years, Faye has had a versatile career propelled, she says, by the encouragement and support of mentors and colleagues.

“I have done a lot of different things that I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would do,” Faye says.

After graduating from Punahou School, Faye majored in sociology at Stanford University, then earned her masters degree in sociology from the University of Chicago. She returned to the Islands to attend law school at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and later joined Pacific Resources Inc. as a general counsel.

Before long, she was pegged to oversee the distribution and retail of oil for the company when it was obtained by Tesoro.

“It was a really, really tough decision for me,” she admits about accepting the position. “I had no idea how to do that job.” But with the help of her team, she figured it out. “And I eventually, you know, did it,” she says with surprising ease.

Another significant career change for Faye came in 2003, when she accepted her current position with Hawaii Dental Service. While Faye says the dental industry was new to her, it was the company’s mission that drew her in.

“We have a community mission, and we take that mission very seriously,” Faye says. “Hawaii’s children have just about the worst oral health in the U.S., and we need to do something about it.”

Faye, who has two adult daughters of her own with husband Barry, seeks to instill children with good habits early in life.

“Think about this: If a child doesn’t have good oral health, their teeth won’t look so nice. When their teacher says, ‘Who knows the answer to this question?”, are you going to raise your hand? Probably not,” Faye says. “I think (oral health) can actually impact the rest of your life.”

The company’s HDS Foundation, which Faye also oversees, provides a venue for giving within the community. Through the foundation, the company provides financial assistance for nonprofits that treat uninsured patients, trains teachers in oral health, funds sealants for kids on the Waianae coast and provides mobile dental vans in rural areas and outer islands.

Carolyn A. Berry Wilson

When Carolyn A. Berry Wilson’s first husband passed away suddenly in 1996, not only was she in emotional turmoil, but she also wasn’t sure what was supposed to come next.

“For the first 21 years of my life, my family took care of me,” says Carolyn, who hails from West Virginia. “I got married at 21, and after that, my husband took care of me for 40 years … I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had a girlfriend who kept calling me and inviting me to lunch and saying, ‘This is your life, honey, you can do with it anything you want.’”

Reluctantly heeding her friend’s advice, Carolyn attended meetings with the finance committee of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra – a decision, she says, that changed the course of the rest of her life. After hearing about the financial troubles that the group was having, Carolyn, who had always been passionate about music, decided to help out. Through her financial support and keen business sense, Carolyn was instrumental in enabling the symphony to continue that year.

That experience rejuvenated Carolyn’s altruistic nature. Even long before she took to philanthropy, Carolyn had spent much of her life volunteering. While she was raising her four children, Carolyn volunteered at their school’s employment office to help students find jobs and was a leader with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

Since her work with the symphony, Carolyn has been working with many local organizations, whether it be serving as a board member, donating resources or throwing fundraising parties. Carolyn is involved with a laundry list of organizations, including Ballet Hawaii, Adult Friends for Youth, PBS Hawaii and American Red Cross, Hawaii Chapter.

“It was all a challenge, of course,” she says about making the transition into philanthropy. “It was something I had never done before. But it’s all been fun.

“I had always been taken care of, and suddenly I became the one taking care of,” she adds. “I take care of a lot of people, and I love it.”

Carolyn also can be found participating in a range of other activities. She’s part of a singing group called The Silver Foxes comprised of women over 60. And although she never had had acting experience previously, Carolyn decided to give the stage a try in her mid-60s and has acted in a number of plays at the Diamond Head Theatre. Currently, she can be seen as the grandma in The Nutcracker. She’s also a happy newlywed, having recently tied the knot with husband Dave Wilson.

Always looking to extend her reach, she recently launched the Carolyn A. Berry Foundation, which will fund education in music and sports – two of her greatest passions.

“I love this community,” Carolyn says. “I like to give back to this community because it’s been really good to me. The people here have treated me very well. I just wish I could see ‘em more, and do more with ‘em.”

Shelley Wilson

In 1992, an 18-year-old Shelley Wilson returned to her family’s home in Iowa after being injured in a car accident while on duty as a combat medic in the Army National Guard. With a crushed right knee, a humerus break in her left arm, and many broken bones in her face, Shelley was confined to a wheelchair for a year while undergoing numerous surgeries. It was a tough year, not only for Shelley, but for tough year, not only for Shelley, but for her family, too.

“I was very rebellious and nasty to my family members who were trying to help me,” Shelley recalls. “But I was just having such a hard time coping with my accident.”

Yet she was entirely dependent on her family’s care. Shelley recalls spending hours and hours waiting for someone to come home, and days when she would try to walk on her own, only to end up falling in the hallway.

“There were a lot of long, long days where I really could have used somebody to help me,” she says.

When Shelley moved to Hawaii to continue treatment, she saw an opportunity to start a home care business – a service that could provide others with the kind of care she hadn’t had.

“It does make sense to have somebody from the outside come take care of people, so that you can maintain your family structure and your relationships don’t deteriorate,” she says.

At 21, Shelley launched her business with just one client, a woman whom Shelley cared for herself, along with her only other employee. Meanwhile, she strung together a slew of part-time jobs in order to make a living.

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