Punahou School

Punahou School
1601 Punahou Street
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822

United States
Type Private Preparatory Day (Primary and Secondary)
Established 1841
President James Kapaeʻalii Scott '70
Faculty 292 teachers
Grades K-12
Number of students 3,760 (approx.)
Campus Urban
Color(s) Buff and Blue          
Athletics conference Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH)
Affiliation Independent
Newspaper Ka Punahou
Literary Magazine Ka Wai Ola (9-12)
Yearbook Na ʻOpio (K-8)
The Oahuan (9-12)
Punahou School Campus
Old School Hall, built in 1851
Punahou School is located in Hawaii
Coordinates: 21°18′10″N 157°49′50″W / 21.30278°N 157.83056°W / 21.30278; -157.83056Coordinates: 21°18′10″N 157°49′50″W / 21.30278°N 157.83056°W / 21.30278; -157.83056
Built: 1842
NRHP Reference#: 72000419[1]
Added to NRHP: August 7, 1972

Punahou School, once known as Oahu College, is a private, co-educational, college preparatory school located in Honolulu CDP, City and County of Honolulu in the U.S. State of Hawaii. With about 3,760[2] students attending the school, in kindergarten through the twelfth grade, it is the largest independent school in the United States.[3]

Originally founded in 1841, the school has a rich history, a wide variety of programs and many notable alumni. Along with academics and athletics, Punahou also offers visual and performing arts programs. In 2006, Punahou School was ranked as the "greenest" school in America.[4] The student body is diverse, with student selection based on both academic and non-academic considerations. In 2008 and 2009, its sports program was ranked by Sports Illustrated as the best in the country out of 38,000 high schools.[5]


History and tradition

In 1795, the land known as Ka Punahou was taken in battle by King Kamehameha I. Along with Ka Punahou, he gave a total of 225 acres (0.91 km2) of land (from the slope of Round Top down to the current Central Union Church, which included a 77-acre (310,000 m2)-tract of Kewalo Basin) to chief Kameʻeiamoku as a reward for his loyalty. After Kameʻeiamoku died, the land was passed down to his son, Ulumāheihei Hoapili, who lived there for twenty more years. When Ulumāheihei left to become the governor of Maui, he gave the land to his daughter, Kuini Liliha.[6] Ka Punahou was given in 1829 by Oahu's Governor Boki and his wife, Liliha to Reverend Hiram Bingham, one of the first Christian missionaries in Hawaii.[7]

Powerful leader Queen Kaʻahumanu was a strong supporter of the mission, and built a house for herself near the Binghams. A portion of the stone wall she had built to protect the compound from roaming cattle has been preserved. Founded in 1841, Punahou School was originally a school for the children of missionaries serving throughout the Pacific region. The first class was held on July 11, 1842, and consisted of only fifteen students. It was the first school with classes only in the English language west of the Rocky Mountains.[7] Daniel Dole (1808–1878) was its first principal.[8] It was known as "Oahu College" from 1853 to 1934.

The campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Oahu on August 7, 1972.[1] During World War II, much of the Punahou campus was commandeered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:[9] Castle Hall (the girls' dormitory) was used as a command center, buildings were connected with tunnels, athletic fields were used as parking lots, the library was cleared to become sleeping quarters and an officer's mess. The cereus hedge on the campus lava rock wall was topped with barbed wire. Punahou students volunteered in hospitals and raised enough in war bonds to purchase two bombers and a fighter (among other airplanes) which were named after alumni who had fallen in service.[10][11]

Campus view in 1909

Many traditional events take place on the campus. On the first Friday and Saturday of each February, the campus hosts the Punahou Carnival,[12] the proceeds of which benefit the Financial Aid program.[13] Holoku Pageant is an annual day of celebration of the Hawaiian culture and arts[14]. The campus also hosts the Alumni Luau Weekend, where alumni come together and meet. The new graduates are invited as well.

The school today

Tuition is $17,800 for the 2010-2011 school year,[15] not including optional and mandatory fees. Tuition charges do not cover the entire cost of the education of a student, and this "deficit" is met by the school's endowment.[16][17] The Washington Post estimated Punahou's endowment to be $174M;[18] Bizjournals and CBS News put it at $180M,[19][20] and Business Week recently claimed it as high as $501M.[21] Although this figure is high among U.S. private schools, Honolulu also has Iolani School with a comparable endowment (twice the endowment per pupil), and Kamehameha Schools has a $5B to $9B endowment (30 times the endowment per pupil).[22] (Maui has Seabury Hall which has twice the endowment per pupil, but is a much smaller school).[23]

Case Middle School

One of nine new Case Middle School buildings on the campus

Before plans were made for a new middle school complex, America Online founder and alumnus Steve Case ('76) donated ten million dollars.[24] This led to construction of a new middle school for grades six through eight.[25] The Case Middle School was actually named in honor of the donor's parents.

Sometime into the project, the school learned about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The school then hired a design consultant, John Hara ('57)[26] for sustainability[27] and found out that they could earn the LEED Gold certification.[28][29] At the time, few projects anywhere had earned this rating.

The middle school also won the Energy Project of the Year award in the Seventh Energy Efficiency Awards, sponsored by Hawaiian Electric Company.[30][31]

Sensors shut off air conditioners if windows are opened to let in the breeze; the buildings are designed to take full use of the tradewinds, with the help of the Venturi effect. There are also sensors in place that turn the lights on or off depending on whether motion is detected, and dim the lights on sunny days or brighten them on overcast or cloudy ones.

Air conditioning for the buildings is provided by three ice-making plants, one for each grade level's section. The units freeze and accumulate ice at night when electricity is cheaper, and allow the ice to melt during the day to cool the air.

The whole school cost more than $50 million USD and was made possible solely through donations.[29] The new middle school opened on January 4, 2005, although the eighth graders had been using their buildings since the beginning of the 2004–2005 school year.

Case Middle School consists of nine color-coded buildings—green for sixth grade, blue for seventh, and red for eighth—on the lower east side of Punahou campus.

Omidyar K-1 Neighborhood

In late 2010 a new five-building indoor/outdoor section of campus opened for Punahou's youngest students.[32] It was constructed and operated with sustainable living as a principal goal, and the curriculum has a focus on sustainability. With solar energy, efficient landscaping, rain catchment and eco-friendly materials, the complex is expected to receive a platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.[33]

Teachers are encouraged to personalize their classroom spaces,[34] and each of the 12 rooms has its own outdoor area that is one-third the size of the interior space to which it is attached.

The total cost was $26 million. Individual buildings are named the Mountain House, Forest House, and City House, and historic Wilcox Hall retains its traditional name. Board of Trustee member and former student Pierre Omidyar donated $6 million to the project.


The Punahou athletics program is the most successful in the state and one of the most successful in the nation, having won more state championships (322) than any other high school in the nation.[35] For two consecutive years (2008 and 2009) it was named the #1 U.S. high school athletics program by Sports Illustrated.[5] Athletic facilities include the heated Waterhouse Pool, and the Atherton 8-lane Mondo track surface. The school also has a fieldhouse for competitive athletics, a gymnasium for physical education and intramural sports, and a tennis center with 9 hard surface courts.[36]

Students compete in 22 sports, including air riflery, baseball, basketball. bowling, canoe paddling, cross country, cheerleading, football, golf, gymnastics, judo, kayaking, riflery, sailing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling. Punahou has approximately 120 sports teams. The school is a member of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

Punahou won 16 state championships in the 2007-2008 school year. The school awarded 82 Scholar Athlete Awards, and over 100 Senior Plaques to the Class of 2008. Punahou won 19 state championships in the 2008-2009 school year, a record number for the school.[citation needed]

Other programs and honors

Students have access to a jewelry studio, a pottery studio, glass-blowing facilities, technological departments, a new dance pavilion, and a dedicated music building. The campus has space dedicated to school-wide initiatives, such as the Luke Center for Public Service and the Wo International Center. The Punahou marching band travels periodically, most recently participating in the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, an alumnus of the school ('79). The band performed in the 2007 New Year's Day Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

The student yearbook, The Oahuan, has won awards from the American Scholastic Press Association.[37]

Punahou requires all students (K - 12) to attend chapel once every 6-day cycle. The school year begins in late August and finishes in early June.

The 115801 Punahou is an asteroid named in the school's honor.[38]

Notable students and faculty

Pauahi Hall, completed in 1896, designed by Charles William Dickey

In Public Leadership

U.S. President Barack Obama ('79) attended Punahou from 1971 to 1979.

Punahou has produced many leaders in the government of Hawaii. Sanford Dole (1864) was President of the brief Republic of Hawaii, then Governor of Hawaii. Walter Frear (1881) and Lawrence M. Judd (1905) were also Governors.

The school has produced U.S. Senators from Illinois and Connecticut. Otis Pike ('39*), Congressman from New York, chaired the Pike Committee investigating Richard Nixon. Charles Djou ('87) recently finished Neil Abercrombie's term as Congressman from Hawaii, and at least three other graduates from Punahou have represented Hawaii in the US House.

Former students who made history in civic leadership include the Educator of the Disenfranchised,[39] an Unlikely Hero,[40] and the Uncommon American[41] (as described by their biographers): General Samuel C. Armstrong (1859) led the rifle company that turned back Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, led U.S. Colored Troops, and founded Hampton University to educate the freed slaves and Native Indians in the way that his father had educated the Hawaiians; Judge Elbert Tuttle ('14) led the federal court that desegregated the South, the "Fifth Circuit Four"; and Secretary John W. Gardner ('29*) was Lyndon Johnson's architect of the Great Society, creating welfare and PBS. Tuttle and Gardner were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Sun Yat Sen, the Founding Father of the modern, post-imperial Republican China, attended Punahou when it was called Oahu College for a year of post-secondary school after graduating from Iolani School.

In Athletics

Punahou is situated in the hills above Waikiki and Honolulu

Punahou has produced seven NFL linemen and three running backs, including Mark Tuinei ('78) who played 15 years (team record) for the Dallas Cowboys, winning three Super Bowls. Punahou football coach Kale Ane ('71) is son of 2xPro Bowler and 2xNFL champion team captain Charley Ane ('49), and nephew of Herman Clark ('48) and Jim Clark ('48); the four combined for a total of 260 NFL games over 20 seasons for the Packers, Chiefs, Lions, Redskins, and Bears. Pro Bowler and Super Bowler Mosi Tatupu ('74)[42] redefined the importance of special teams. The school also claims a pitcher and a first baseman in major league baseball. 5-time tennis double winnder Jim Osborne (tennis) graduated in 1965. LPGA winner Michelle Wie graduated in 2007.

Punahou has a tradition of sending athletes to the Olympic Games, with alumni contributing seven gold, seven silver, and three bronze medals, competing in many of the modern games ('20, '24, '28, '32, '52, '68, '72, '76, '84, '88, '92, '96, '00, '04, '08), and on every U.S. team since 1968 (Moscow '80 would have been the second of four Olympics for Henry Marsh ('72) if not for the U.S. boycott). Punahou alumni include 2008 Olympic SIlver medalists Brandon Brooks (water polo) ('99) as goalkeeper for the U.S. Water Polo team, and Lindsey Berg ('98) as setter for the U.S. Volleyball team.[43]

In Academia

In academia, Punahou can point to endowed professors at Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, Duke, Illinois, Notre Dame, and Boston U. There are research professors of medicine at UCSF, UCLA, UCSD, USC, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Pitt, Walter Reed, Texas, and Baylor. John Lie ('78) wrote eight books on Asian cultures, Patrick Vinton Kirch ('68) wrote nine books on Polynesian cultures and Fred Hoxie ('65) wrote twenty books on Native American peoples. Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, SJ ('70) was the president of Gonzaga University, General George Forsythe ('66*) is the new president of Westminster College (Missouri), Marie Mookini ('74) has been admissions director for Stanford and its business school for over two decades, and William Richards Castle, Jr. (1896) was a Harvard Overseer. Elizabeth Bennett Johns ('55) has been a Guggenheim Fellow. Mount Rex is named for former student and atmospheric science pioneer Dan Rex ('33*).

The school has a connection to Mills College through Punahou's former president, Cyrus Mills, who helped found the college with his wife, Punahou teacher Susan Tolman Mills. Queenie B. Mills was a Kindergarten director who helped design the Head Start program.

In the Arts

In the arts, Joan Blondell ('25*) has a Hollywood Walk of Fame star after 52 years in films. Rod Lurie ('80) has directed and produced a dozen films (Straw Dogs, The Contender) and two major TV series (Line of Fire, Commander in Chief). Kevin McCollum ('80*) directs a Broadway production company that claims five Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Allan Burns ('53) was a 6-time Emmy Award-winning writer and creator, known for such shows as The Munsters, Get Smart, Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Ken Peterson ('26) animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and Sleeping Beauty. Buster Crabbe ('27), who had won a gold medal in the 1932 Olympics, portrayed Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers in film. John Kneubuhl ('38), a Samoan royal, was a writer on Wild, Wild, West, Star Trek, Hawaii Five O, Gunsmoke, Mannix, and 40 other shows. Gerry Lopez ('66) is well known for surfing, but is also known as Subotai in Conan the Barbarian. Three danced for the early Martha Graham. Leilani Jones ('75) won a Tony Award on Broadway, and was on the original casts of Grind and Little Shop of Horrors. Amanda Schull ('96) had the lead role as an aspiring ballerina in Center Stage. IMDB.com lists almost 50 credits for Carrie Ann Inaba ('86) (In Living Color, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Dancing with the Stars), and almost 100 for Kelly Preston ('80) (Jerry Maguire, For Love of the Game, Only You, Twins).

The Kingston Trio had two Punahou founders, Dave Guard ('52*) and Bob Shane ('52), producing ten top-40 hits and a #1 Grammy-winning single. Robin Luke ('59) was a Rockabilly Hall of Fame act. Hawaiian slack-key guitar is well represented by the popular music of Henry Kapono Kaaihue ('67) of Cecilio & Kapono. More recently, Melody Ishikawa ('00) had three top-ten albums in Japan, and Teri Ann Linn's ('79) debut CD went gold on the European charts.

In the Military

Punahou has a striking list of military alumni. Francis Wai ('35) was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, Killed in Action in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The school can claim at least eleven Army Generals, three Rear Admirals, a Marine Major General, and six Air Force Generals.[44] General Stanley Larsen ('33) was the first commander of the I Field Force, Vietnam. Marine Major General Ross T. Dwyer ('37) was USMC Aide to the Secretary of the Navy.

Many of the students were children of high level commanders, e.g., a Marine Commandant Wallace M. Greene, Jr., stationed in the Pacific, and many had their family reassigned before graduation. This includes General Edward Timberlake ('14*), Colonel Red Reeder ('20*), General Donald Booth ('22*), and General Walter Johnson '(22*), all of whom graduated from West Point, and all of whom had important World War II commands.

Colonel Farrant Turner ('13), Major Alex McKenzie ('29), and Major John Johnson ('31) commanded the Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion, the Purple Heart Battalion, the latter being Killed in Action at Cassino. The destroyer USS Chung-Hoon is named after Punahou football star, Admiral Gordon Chung-Hoon ('29*), who survived the attack on the USS Arizona.

In Biographies

Brewster Morgan's ('35*) story is told in The Great Escape and Robert Alexander Anderson's ('12) story is told in The Dawn Patrol (both were downed pilots); another war pilot, Ted Withington ('40), had his letters published as Flight to Black Hammer. Charlie Wedemeyer's ('65) story is told in the Emmy-award winning film Quiet Victory. John Kneubuhl's story was a documentary film, and Blondell has a 2007 biography. Armstrong, Tuttle, Gardner, and Obama have also had formal biographers. Hiram Bingham III's (1892) latest biography calls him A Real Life Indiana Jones.[45] James Michener's Hawaii (novel) and Hawaii (film) portray the historical acts of Lorrin A. Thurston (1875), Sanford Dole, Hiram Bingham I, Henry Baldwin (1891), and Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole (1889) in the transition from monarchy to US territory. Their classmates, such as Alexander Cartwright III (1869), were early players of baseball, as initiated in the islands by Alexander Cartwright, Jr., the official inventor of the game.


In 2007, Cox Enterprises passed to two former Punahou students who are highly philanthropic like their mother Barbara Cox Anthony, who twice married Punahou alumni; a former schoolteacher, Blair Kennedy ('68*), is now the wealthiest person in Australia; her brother, James C. Kennedy ('65*) was Atlanta's philanthropist of the year, 2007. Charles Gates, Jr. ('39) has donated $147M through his Gates Family Foundation. As mentioned above, the philanthropic founders of AOL and ebay were Punahou students.

Charles L. Veach ('62) was an astronaut on two shuttle missions.

Punahou students were crowned Miss Hawaii or Miss Hawaii USA in 1977, 1981, 1997, 1999, and 2004 (with two becoming Miss USA and Miss Universe, respectively: Judi Anderson ('76) and Brook Mahealani Lee ('89*)).

Punahou students appear across the political spectrum, from Ronald Reagan's "favorite economist" Wendy Lee Gramm ('62); Ryan Henry ('68) and Robert Silberman ('75), Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of the Army, respectively, for George H. W. Bush; to centrist Ray Schoenke ('59*), a former Democratic candidate for Maryland Governor who founded the American Hunters and Shooters Association (an alternative to the National Rifle Association); to Jerry Berman ('58), chief counsel of the ACLU.

Ellery Chun ('27) invented the Aloha Shirt.

* indicates the class year of an attendee who did not graduate with the class.

Alma mater

School carnival in 2007


Oahu'a, Oahu'a
Punahou, our Punahou;
O Mau o' Mau, O mau o' mau,
Punahou, our Punahou.

Through all the years we've shown our light,
We glory in Oahu's might;
The Buff and Blue's a glorious sight,

Punahou, our Punahou.

The song is sung to the tune of Maryland, My Maryland also known as "O Tannenbaum". The spelling is from the original words to "Oahu'a" written in 1902 by a student.

School Shout

Ready? Hit it!
Strawberry Shortcake, Huckleberry Pie
V - I - C - T - O - R - Y
Are We In It? Well I Guess!
Punahou, Punahou, Yes, Yes, Yes!

This cheer is typically shouted by the cheerleaders at Punahou, at events such as football games and other sports activities and gatherings.

School Mascot

Punahou doesn't have a mascot per se. The symbol that perhaps most closely qualifies as a school mascot is the hala tree, whose image is used in the school's seal.


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  14. ^ "A Look Back at the History of Punahou’s “Holoku”". http://punahou74.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/a-look-back-at-the-history-of-punahous-holoku/. 
  15. ^ "Punahou: Tuition and Payments". Punahou School. 2009. http://www.punahou.edu/page.cfm?p=1793. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
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  17. ^ "Punahou: Tuition and Payments". Punahou School. http://www.punahou.edu/page.cfm?p=1793. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  18. ^ View all comments that have been posted about this article. (2009-01-03). "With Obama's Rise, Hawaii School Adds to Its Distinctions". Washingtonpost.com. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/02/AR2009010202325_pf.html. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  19. ^ "Obama's "Aloha" Days In The Spotlight". CBS News. 2007-03-14. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/14/politics/main2567770.shtml. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  20. ^ Kalani, Nanea (2009-01-30). "Punahou finishes first in size, sports, ‘green’ campus and cost - Pacific Business News (Honolulu):". Bizjournals.com. http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2009/02/02/focus5.html. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
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  22. ^ "Issue2-6.pub" (PDF). http://vcafo.org/support_bulletin/2006/Issue2-6.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
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  27. ^ Zhang, Linda; Rigney, Lauren (27 November 2006). "Service program focuses on environment, Punahou urges students to help the community". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. http://starbulletin.com/2006/11/27/features/story03.html. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
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  32. ^ http://www.punahou.edu/page.cfm?p=1824
  33. ^ http://www.kitv.com/r/24332317/detail.html
  34. ^ http://www.punahou.edu/page.cfm?p=1542&newsid=442
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  37. ^ Plass, Richard M.. "Annual Contest/Review for Scholastic Yearbooks, Magazines and Newspapers; Yearbooks 2006 - FIRST PLACE". American Scholastic Press Association. http://www.asan.com/asa/aspa1.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
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  39. ^ Engs’ book analyzes historical enigma - News
  40. ^ Amazon.com: Unlikely Heroes: Books: Jack Bass
  41. ^ PBS - John Gardner, Uncommon American: HOME
  42. ^ Tatupu's Punahou O-Men Hall of Fame Induction Citation
  43. ^ "Lindsey Berg". USA Volleyball web site. November 11, 2009. http://usavolleyball.org/athletes/lindsey-berg. Retrieved September 9, 2010. 
  44. ^ See full list Punahou School alumni
  45. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0230611699

Further reading

  • "Punahou School: a private school with a public purpose," Hawaii Business, September 1, 2003. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_go2021/is_200309/ai_n9142055
  • A. Alexander, "Baseball at Punahou Thirty-Seven Years Ago," Oahuan, June 1906.
  • Mary C. Alexander, C.P. Dodge, William R. Castle, Punahou, 1841–1941, U. California Press, 1941.
  • John B. Bowles, Day Our World Changed: December 7, 1941; Punahou '52 Remembers Pearl Harbor, Ice Cube Press, 2004. ISBN 1888160020
  • T. K. Chow-Hoy, "An inquiry into school context and the teaching of the virtues," Journal of Curriculum Studies, 2001.
  • D. Cisco, Hawaii Sports: History, Facts, and Statistics, University of Hawaii Press, 1999.
  • Ethel Mosely Damon, The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Pageant Punahou, published by the author, 1916.
  • Charlotte P. Dodge, Punahou, The War Years, 1941–1945, 1984.
  • Nelson Foster, ed., Punahou: The History and Promise of a School of the Islands, published by Punahou School, 1992.
  • James A. Michener, Hawaii, Bantam Books, 1960. ISBN: B0000CKM6G
  • Norris W. Potter, The Punahou Story, Pacific Books, 1969.
  • Punahou Class of 1957, Na Halia Aloha o Punahou Class of 1957, June 2007 http://www2.punahou.edu/pdf/Bulletin/Classof57BookWeb.pdf includes many historical photos and legend of founding.
  • M. Tate, "The Sandwich Island Missionaries Lay The Foundation for a System of Public Instruction in Hawaii," The Journal of Negro Education, 1961.
  • Kirby Wright, Punahou Blues, Lemon Shark Press, 2005. ISBN 0974106712

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