Kiwi Camara: Harvard genius, ballroom dancer
Cristina DC Pastor, Aug 18, 2004
EVEN in a family of geniuses, Kiwi Alejandro Danao Camara somehow stands out.
THE YOUNGEST graduate in Harvard Law School history, Kiwi is most interested in corporate law. www.kiwicamara.com
The Camaras of Iba, Zambales is a clan of medical professionals led by patriarch Augusto, who had a cardiology practice for many decades at the Makati Medical Center.
His 12 children include an allergist, an orthodontist, a chiropractor, a cardiologist, an ophthalmologist and a psychiatrist who is Kiwi’s father Enrico.
Kiwi’s mother Theresa Danao of Bulacan is a summa cum laude at U.P. where she and Enrico met.
Now, Kiwi has upped the bar in family achievements. He excelled in elementary, fast-tracked his education by skipping high school, and finished an undergraduate course in computer science and mathematics at 16.
He earned his doctorate in law, magna cum laude, at 19, making him the youngest graduate in Harvard Law School history.
“He was the youngest when he entered his law class so it’s not unreasonable to believe he’s the youngest to graduate,” Harvard spokesman Michael Rodman told Philippine News. One of his professors said he was greatly impressed by Kiwi’s talents.
“He is analytically powerful, with much intellectual depth and promise,” Friedman professor of Law, Economics, and Finance Lucian Bebchuk said.
In the last two years of his law school, Kiwi worked with Bebchuk on numerous research projects that centered on the area of law and corporate governance. During that time, the professor said Kiwi “handled himself with a great deal of maturity and grace, exhibiting well-justified confidence.”
“I don’t feel I’m different,” Kiwi said in an interview with PN, adding that he is a “regular guy” who plays golf, tennis, soccer and racquetball. He loves ballroom dancing and has won several contests for the Harvard-Radcliffe Ballroom Dancing Team.
Awaiting his law exam results, Kiwi is currently winding down his research at the John M. Olin Fellowship in law and economics, and the Berkman Center for Internet and society; both at Harvard.
“I hope to pass,” he said wryly.
In September, he will clerk for Court of Appeals Judge Harris Hartz of the 10th Circuit as he eases his way from the academe to the real world.
A Harvard alumnus, Hartz has jurisdiction over the southwestern states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Eastern Oklahoma, Western Oklahoma, Northern Oklahoma, and New Mexico. He keeps chambers in Albuquerque.
“Most people would go into law practice directly after school, but some take clerkships to immerse themselves in general practice and to get experience with a variety of cases. Working for a federal judge is really a great way to get exposure to high-quality legal arguments,” Kiwi explained.
Born in the Philippines, Kiwi began reading serious books at age 3, carried on a conversation about Warren Buffet’s stock picks at 6, and had written a paper on alternative treatments on rheumatoid arthritis at 11.
“He has always been precocious intellectually and his teachers noticed his remarkable maturity,” his uncle Jorge Camara, a prominent ophthalmologist in Hawaii, said. “His parents encouraged it and didn’t make him feel unusual.”
A year after Kiwi was born, the family moved to Cleveland, where the Camaras opened a medical practice.
He attended Ratner Academy, a Jewish school where his ability to use high-falutin’ words and his discipline at finishing all reading assignments before the school closed for summer set him apart from the regular students. He used difficult words not to impress people but because of a more evolved lexicon from reading serious books.
Enrico and Theresa decided to transfer their practice to Honolulu and moved the family there in early 1990. Kiwi went to Punahou School where he finished the remainder of his elementary years.
“The weather is better,” Kiwi replied when asked why the family moved to Hawaii. “Everyone who’s moved from Cleveland to Hawaii never regretted it.”
Jorge said his brother and sister-in-law have always been tempted to move to Hawaii every time they visited him. In 1991, they just decided to do it. At Punahou, Kiwi registered high SAT scores. He was given the option to skip high school and take early college courses at the Hawaii Pacific University (HPU). Kiwi bravely took the leap from eighth grade to college. His parents expressed some concerns.
For one thing, Kiwi would be missing the social interaction in high school, which is an important phase in a person’s overall development.
“To me as a parent it was a difficult decision because academics aren’t the only things you learn in high school. There’s overall character development, social and emotional development,” Enrico told the Honolulu Advertiser.
Theresa added, “Technically he would be a high school dropout.”
As it has always been in the Camara household, they left the final decision up to Kiwi. “We’ve always treated him like a mature person and we trusted his decisions,” Enrico said. By 16, Kiwi had an undergraduate degree in computer science from HPU.
He has no way to explain his “gift,” except to say he had a normal family and did not notice anything out of the ordinary while he was growing up. As a kid, he played with children his age and had a computer at home.
He admitted to being an avid reader of academic-type legal and scientific books. Kiwi’s area of interest is corporate law. One of his research papers is about “Shareholder voting and the bundling problem in corporate law,” where he argues that giving shareholders greater power to intervene in corporate decisions will not necessarily lead to greater benefits for them.
“Corporate law is an interesting field of law,” he said. “It has practical importance in the structuring of business transactions and it is crucial to the economy.”
While Kiwi thinks corporate law would be “fun to explore” in practice, he would rather see himself as a law professor.
He was drawn to law, he said, by a course in constitutional law he took as an undergraduate. He complemented what he learned from Prof. Sandy Muir of Berkeley with readings on law and social institutions and was hooked on the discipline.
Jorge believes his nephew chose law over medicine – the profession of his parents – as a form of self-expression.
“He’s an only child, and some kids tend to want to be in another field,” he said. “He wanted to branch out to other fields.”
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Mar 20, 2006 08:57:00
Kiwi's mom committed suicide last year? He is the first cousin of Augusto. This is very depressing-.
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