Abigail Kawananakoa Receives Honorary Degree on Sunday

The ceremony took place in the winner's circle at Los Alamitos Racecourse.

Edited press release

Princess Abigail Kawananakoa received an honorary degree from Colorado State University during a winner's circle ceremony at Los Alamitos Racecourse on Sunday. PHOTO: Los Alamitos Racecourse

Princess Abigail K. Kawananakoa, a celebrated breeder of racing American Quarter Horses and direct descendant of the Hawaiian royal family, received the diploma for her honorary doctorate from Colorado State University during a presentation Sunday at Los Alamitos Racecourse.

The presentation took place in conjunction with the Los Alamitos Two-Million Futurity (G1), which Kawananakoa won in 1995 with Evening Snow. Based on the success of her stable in 1994 and '95, she was voted AQHA champion owner.

Fittingly, Kawananakoa, 90, was given the diploma and a ceremonial commencement hood from Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedics and Founding Director of the Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University. Kawananakoa and McIlwraith are longtime friends and well-known figures at Los Alamitos. McIlwraith has performed surgery on many of Kawananakoa’s winning horses to maintain their musculoskeletal health.

CSU officially conferred the honorary doctorate to Kawananakoa in May 2016, but she was unable to attend the Graduate School commencement ceremony in Fort Collins, Colorado. The presentation was postponed to Sunday, which will mark the first time in several years that the princess, who resides in Hawaii, has traveled to Los Alamitos.

Kawananakoa earned the honorary degree for her longtime support of global equine health and for her leadership in preserving native Hawaiian culture. For many years, the princess has directed her energy and philanthropic resources toward the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian language, culture and history, noted Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She also has been a lifelong devotee of horses, and as a young woman was a talented equestrian; this passion connected Kawananakoa to CSU and inspired her to promote research and teaching in equine musculoskeletal health.

For about 15 years, Kawananakoa has generously supported the CSU Orthopaedic Research Center, which investigates musculoskeletal problems and medical therapies for equine athletes, including racehorses. Because of similarities in the joints of horses and humans, the center’s discoveries often translate into advancements in human orthopaedic care.

“Abigail has been a tremendous friend to the Orthopaedic Research Center, and I have personally appreciated our shared interest in the health of the horse," said McIlwraith, an international pioneer in arthroscopic surgery and joint disease research in horses. "With her support over many years, we have been able to accomplish a great deal.

"As our friendship has grown, I have been continually astounded by Abigail’s influence on the many cultural and civic projects she embarks upon," he added. "She is an incredible individual.”

Kawananakoa owns Lakeview Quarter Horse Farm in Nuevo, California, as well as ranches in Hawaii and Washington. The acclaimed horsewoman is best known as owner of champion A Classic Dash, winner of the 1993 All American Futurity, the world’s richest Quarter Horse race.

McIlwraith operated on both A Classic Dash and Evening Snow, using arthroscopic surgery to remove bone fragments from their joints. A Classic Dash then retired to stud, but Evening Snow returned to the track after knee surgery, and in 1996 he shocked the racing world when he the first horse of any breed to sprint the quarter-mile from a standing start in less than 21 seconds.

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