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A true Bradley queen: The life and times of Lynne Kimoto Madden

It’s been 50 years since Lynne Kimoto Madden won the Bradley homecoming queen in 1969.  More impressively, she did a year after transferring from the University of Hawaii. But the story doesn’t stop there.  

Lynne  – then known as just Lynne Kimoto – thought the homecoming queen win was a noteworthy part of her life and served as a sign of acceptance into her new community.

She remembers the homecoming parade and 1969 concert with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles as the performers. But fun aside, Lynne said she thought the homecoming queen had supplementary meaning and responsibility.

Lynne Kimoto Madden in 1969.
Photo via Scout archive.

“Some people might think it’s superficial, but I think it’s a statement on what your peers believe is a good role model,” she said. “Be humble. You’re a role model and you need to take that seriously.”

Before she took on the title, she had to begin a 4,000 mile journey. She remembers arriving in central Illinois for the first time and how different the landscape was from her home of Hawaii.

“There’s no hills, it’s so flat,” she said. “All I could see were these fields and fields of grain.”

And that’s exactly what Lynne was looking for: the exact opposite of her island state.

“I wanted the antithesis of Hawaii,” she said. “Most of the kids who graduated during my time [in Hawaii] all went to West Coast schools. Nobody ventured very far other than that.”

Lynne originally planned to attend Bradley for all four years, but she was held back in Hawaii after winning another type of competition.

The prompt for the national contest was “the importance of a smile” and Lynne’s mother submitted a photo of her daughter. The competition was sponsored by major companies such as Coca-Cola, United Airlines and Jantzen, a swimwear company.

Lynne won the state round and then moved onto the national stage to win the entire competition. As a part of her win, she traveled to New York City for the reveal of Jatzen’s new spring line as her first trip to the United States mainland.

Lynne Kimoto Madden pictured in 2018 (center) with her daughters Erin (right), Lauren (left) and grandson Colton. Photo via Lynne Kimoto Madden.

The Business Woman

After her win, the Hawaiian based department store Liberty House wanted to promote her as its winning contestant. In the meantime, she attended the University of Hawaii for two years before heading to the Hilltop to study the fashion business.

But because of the required fashion courses of home economics, which she was not a fan of, she switched her focus to marketing. According to Lynne, she was one of only “two, maybe three” female students in the business college.

Using that degree after college, she worked as an assistant manager and the director of sales at the Kahala Hilton (now known as the Kahala Resort) in Hawaii. She said she interacted with presidents, dignitaries like former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and even the Queen of England.

After over 12 years with the hotel, she decided to buy a business with her then-husband, a deal that would become The Madden Corporation.

“It was a leap of faith,” she said. “And I was seven and a half months pregnant at the time, so here I am working 14-hour days and gave birth, and the next day I was working. I had my operations manager there at my hospital bed making sure we weren’t losing any money because I didn’t have any money to lose.”

This year, The Madden Corporation celebrated its 35th anniversary with Lynne serving as its current president and CEO. According to its website, the company “manufactures and distributes more than 4,000 products to nearly 3,000 customers throughout Hawai‘i, the continental U.S., Europe and Asia.”

The Listener

After her coronation in 1969, she told The Scout, “one usually thinks of the queen in terms of outward beauty, but internal beauty, warmth and friendliness, is most important.”

Once adjusted to the Midwestern lifestyle, Lynne found herself comfortably interacting with people. They reminded her of home.

“The people were just like people from Hawaii: very, very friendly,” she said.

In a time riddled with racial tensions and the Vietnam War – including the stress of college students dealing with the military draft – Lynne found herself in a unique position. Her cultural background of English, French, Scottish and half-Japanese allowed her to access an exclusive role in racial discourse.

“I was able to blend with both [racial] sides and offer some advice if I could,” she said. “I felt like I was safe ground for everybody.”

She remembers late-night conversations with peers and residents of Williams Hall, where she was a part of the staff, listening to what they had to say, mediating and offering advice. Her message was upright.

“We’re all equal,” she said. “We should all treat each other with the same amount of respect and I could deliver that message because I was not on either side.”

The Alumna

Lynne graduated from Bradley in the winter of 1970. She said the last time she visited Bradley was in the 80s during a business trip to Chicago. She recalled that it was pouring rain as she drove down and how it miraculously stopped when she entered Peoria.

“The first thing I did was I went to Avanti’s,” she said.

Lynne Kimoto Madden took chances. She wanted to go to college in a place she had never experienced before, was a friend to anyone who needed one and completed a business deal under strenuous circumstances.

With a smile that took her to the United States mainland, a personality that won her the Bradley homecoming queen and a tenacity that took her to the top of her business, Lynne offered her wise advice.

“My mother always told me that, ‘Whatever you want, you need to get yourself and don’t depend on anybody or anyone else,’” she said. “To be successful, you need to be willing to put in the time.”

This article has been updated for a correction. An earlier version of this article indicated that Lynne Kimoto Madden was the homecoming queen for both 1968 and 1969; Kimoto Madden was only name the homecoming queen in 1969.

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