At Friends of Hawaii Robotics, we believe experience matters.
Leonard (Lenny) Klompus created and organized the robotics 501(c)(3) efforts over eight years ago. Today, he oversees each and every project on a daily basis.
Those who have worked with him over his 30+ year career know him to be an innovative, imaginative, no-nonsense leader. His flair in making each activity special and unique has been his hallmark since graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in Communications. He has also been labeled a “possible-est” due in part to his mantra that everything is possible which mirrors his WIT (Whatever It Takes) business acumen.
Lenny started his career in media, working as one of the first broadcast marketing directors in Washington, D.C. for a group of radio stations. After 18 months, he started an in-house advertising agency for a chain of 22 -different style- restaurants. Quickly this one-man shop transitioned into his own advertising agency and soon had a growing list of clients including the sports department at his alma mater. One of the first commercials he wrote, produced and directed for the football program won an ADDY Award. He went on to assist the 1973 Terps to be invited to their first NCAA bowl in decades.
Then lightning struck. When the Notre Dame basketball contract was falling apart the night before the game, Lenny jumped in and helped produce and syndicate via independent televisions stations the game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It was a success and subsequently, Lenny’s firm won Notre Dame’s basketball and football television rights. You might remember the Notre Dame replays: “With further action in the quarter…“
This syndication success was all before ESPN was a household name. In fact, he produced games on his own independent broadcast network and simultaneously aired them on ESPN. In 1984, ESPN garnished its largest television rating (8.4) for Hawaii’s first bowl game produced by Lenny’s company. This top-line rating and recognition was held until ESPN took over the NFL rights.
A prominent Sports Illustrated journalist called him a “pioneer” in the early ’80s when he orchestrated the first sporting event to be broadcast on network television and a relatively-new cable systems simultaneously called ESPN. Later called an “impresario”, Lenny worked with the original USA Network to produce and broadcast the first live basketball game from Japan. He also owned the rights and subsequently syndicated and produced Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s last football game at the Liberty Bowl.
His company also produced baseball, basketball, hockey and other special events across the country for over two decades.
Lenny went on to help start the Aloha Bowl (originally the Pineapple Bowl in 1978) in 1982 alongside the legendary Mackay Yanagisawa, the “shogun of Hawaii sports.” Lenny’s company owned the event through 1999 raising awareness for sports in Hawaii, while garnishing millions of dollars and recognition for the state. One headline in the old Honolulu Advertiser credited the game with having a $100 million positive impact to the state.
In 1998, he received permission from the NCAA to host the first sanctioned doubleheader football bowl game. The Aloha and O’ahu Bowls’ were the harbinger and forerunner for the current bowl championship format. Lenny’s blueprint was a pure playoff system utilizing the bowl cities. It was clear that the doubleheader worked and was hailed by the NCAA team officials, the media and fans as a winning proposition.
Lenny was called upon by the State of Hawaii’s Business Development Office in 1994 to takeover the Hula Bowl All-Star Football Classic and the 50-sport Aloha State (Olympic-type) Games. Both events were failing and needed a “turn around business person” to keep the events alive. He did just that.
In 1999 and 2002 respectfully, he sold all his business interests and joined the campaign to help then-Maui Mayor in her run for governor. The Mayor won, becoming the first women to win the states highest office, and Lenny became one of three senior advisors heading strategic communications for the Administration and all 16 State departments. Serving two full four-year terms as the Governor ‘sSenior Advisor for Communications, Lenny oversaw a cadre of media initiatives including building a statewide emergency management communications plan and working with the White House on several key programs, like the designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a National Marine Heritage Reserve, which was later named Papahanaumokuakea and listed as a United Nations World Heritage Site, among others.
He led an eclectic team of individuals charged with coordinating and producing all special government events, including the 50th Anniversary of Hawaii Statehood Commemoration and the International Women’s Leadership Conference.
Today, Lenny serves as President and Chairman of the Board of the Friends of Hawaii Robotics. This 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, non-partisan Hawaii corporation helps develop, coordinate and support nine statewide robotics education programs which encompass nearly 600 teams and 8,000 students.
The mission for Friends is to ensure the next generation of leaders have all the tools that are available to them. Through a unique, no cookie-cutter approach to projects, Friends is mindful of Hawaii students, first and last.
It has been said that, “With Lenny, when promises are made, they are promises kept.”