Snyder Hall – Part 1

Image of  the newly-built Health Research Institute, which was later renamed Snyder Hall
Note: Part 2 continues with more of the history of Snyder Hall
The impending demolition of Snyder Hall provides an opportunity to offer an account of the sixth UH President, Laurence Hasbrouck Snyder (1958 – 1963), for whom the building–originally named the Health Research Institute Building upon its completion in 1962–was renamed in 1967. Its construction cost of $1,507,025 was met partly by federal funds and it was designed by architects Takashi Anbe and George K. C. Lee, who also designed Webster and Spalding Halls.

Photo of Laurence H. Snyder, 6th President of UH (1958~1963)

Laurence H. Snyder, 6th President of UH (1958~1963).


Snyder, an internationally recognized geneticist called the “father of human genetics” by the Science Editor of the Saturday Review, was inaugurated UH President on February 15, 1959. The son of medical missionaries to Africa, Snyder was born in Kingston, New York on July 23, 1901. After graduation from Rutgers University, he earned a doctorate in science at Harvard. Before coming to Hawai‘i, Snyder held positions in three institutions: Professor of biology at North Carolina State College, professor of genetics and professor of medicine at Ohio State University, chair of the Department of Zoology and Entomology, and then graduate dean and professor of medicine at the University of Oklahoma.

Snyder’s tenure as UH president coincided with an economic building boom through a Democratic state legislature giving priority to educational opportunity and passing tax increases to pay for them. UH student enrollment doubled to 10,000 during his five year tenure. Thirty-seven new buildings went up on campus (including the building named for Snyder), and many new academic programs were instituted, with doctoral programs increasing from six to eighteen and masterʻs degrees reaching fifty (Honolulu Star-Bulletin October 10, 1986). Snyder singled out as one of his proudest accomplishments the monkeypod-shaded mall stretching from Varney Circle to East West Center Road.
Image of  the newly-built Health Research Institute, which was later renamed Snyder Hall

The newly-built Health Research Institute, which was later renamed Snyder Hall.


Believing that the emphasis on intercollegiate football was at odds with the academic mission of the university, Snyder made the controversial decision to ban football, cancelling the 1961 season. An influential alumni group rose up in protest and the program resumed. Unlike his predecessor Paul S. Bachman, Snyder saw no value in the growth of the UH Hilo campus and considered it a “fringe operation…which should not have been started and should not be kept going” (Honolulu Advertiser January 24, 1959). His successor Thomas Hamiltonʻs shared sentiment invigorated the Hawai‘i Island community to lobby against such Mānoa opposition to the campusʻ growth until President Harlan Cleveland promoted Paul Miwa from campus administrator to Chancellor in April 1970 (Mālamalama 1998:245)

After retirement, Synder returned to teaching. He updated his body of knowledge so as to encompass new developments in DNA chemistry, protein chemistry, and metabolic pathways and thereafter taught well-attended Snyder Hall classes for medical students and local physicians until his retirement in 1968. A prolific writer, he authored 141 books and scholarly articles including eight books on medical genetics and the principles of hereditary.
This multi-dimensional man was a boogie-woogie piano virtuoso. a birder, and a jewelry hobbyist. In a Bio-Science article (July 1977) he shared with the mainland scientific community his enthusiasm for jewelry made from ornamental palms, legumes, spurge, and blue marble seeds. He loved Hawai‘i and made his home in the islands until his death in 1986.


  • Green, Earl L. “Laurence Hasbrouck Snyder: pioneer in human genetics.” American Journal of Human Genetics (August 1987): 276-285.
  • Kamins, Robert M.. and Robert E. Potter. Mālamalama; A History of the University of Hawai‘i. (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998).
  • Kobayashi, Victor. Building a Rainbow [chapter by Chapter]. Hui O Students, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 1983.
  • Opitz, John M. “Biographical note – Laurence H. Snyder.” American Journal of Medical Genetics (1981): 447-448. (Accompanied by “On the role of Laurence H. Snyder in the development of human and medical genetics in the United States: an oral history tape interview”, p. 449-468 of the same journal.)

One thought on “Snyder Hall – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Snyder Hall – Part 2 | Archives & Manuscripts Department

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