Star Advertiser (Michael Tsai) | September 17, 2013
On the surface it seemed a career plan executed to perfection.
John Cheever — environmentally conscious, conservation-minded, humanitarian-in-bud — made the most of a top high school education at Punahou School, matriculated at elite Cornell University, where he earned a degree in environmental science, then landed a seemingly plum job doing environmental planning and assessments.
It was the early 1990s. The world needed saving, and Cheever, logic dictated, was the man for the job.
Alas, Cheever says, “I was quickly disabused of that notion.”
A classic collision of youthful ideals and indifferent, immovable reality left Cheever adrift.
“I had sort of a mid-20s crisis,” Cheever says.
Unmoored, Cheever, a soccer enthusiast, followed his bliss, spending the better part of a year growing his hair and driving around the country taking in World Cup qualifying matches.
Then, in the midst of what he calls a profound journey, Cheever had an epiphany: He wanted to teach.
Cheever began work on a master’s degree in American history at the University of Colorado. Before he could finish, he landed a job as a teacher at a San Francisco elementary school.
In 2000 he returned to Hawaii to take a job at his alma mater.
Cheever made his impact felt almost immediately, taking charge of an existing course that combined the study of economics with community service. With support from school President Jim Scott, Cheever reshaped the class to better integrate the two elements and, later, to incorporate principles of sustainability and renewable energy policy.
A few years ago Cheever was selected to participate in the Pacific Century Fellows program and helped launch a nonprofit company that specialized in micro-lending. Though not as dramatic as his epiphany on the interstate, the experience inspired Cheever to consider other ways to effect positive change in the world.
That opportunity came when Cheever was offered a job as a renewable-energy developer for local solar provider RevoluSun.
As part of his duties, Cheever administers the company’s outreach program for local schools, allowing him to continue educating youth about conservation and other close-to-heart topics. And just as he did at Punahou, Cheever found a way to make an immediate impact at his new job, raising funds to purchase “solar suitcase” power units for the Aloha Medical Mission to distribute to medical practitioners in impoverished areas of the world.
“It gives me chicken skin to think that with this technology can help save people’s lives,” Cheever says. “I’ve always wanted to help make the world a better place, help the environment and empower people to realize their potential.”
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