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Old School Hall, built in 1851

Punahou School, once known as Oahu College, is a private, co-educational, college preparatory school located in Honolulu CDPmarker, City and County of Honolulumarker in the U.S. State of Hawaiimarker. With about 3,750 students attending the school, in kindergarten through the twelfth grade, it is the largest independent school in the United Statesmarker.In 2006, Punahou School was ranked as the "greenest" school in America. 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.

Along with academics and athletics, Punahou also offers visual and performing arts programs. Students have access to a jewelry studio, a pottery studio, a photography darkroom, and glass-blowing facilities. The Punahou marching band goes on a trip once every four years, and most recently they participated in the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, an alumnus of the school ('79). The student yearbook, The Oahuan, has won national awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and the American Scholastic Press Association, including the first Columbia Gold to be awarded in the State for the 2002 Oahuan .

Tuition is $16,675 for the 2008-2009 school year, 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. The Washington Post recently estimated Punahou's endowment to be $174M; Bizjournals and CBS News put it at $180M, and Business Week recently claimed it as high as $501M. Although this figure is high among U.S. private schools, Honolulu also has Iolani Schoolmarker with a comparable endowment (twice the endowment per pupil), and Kamehameha Schoolmarker has a $5B to $9B endowment (30x the endowment per pupil). (Mauimarker has Seabury Hall which has twice the endowment per pupil, but is a much smaller school).

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

History and tradition

Campus view in 1909
Founded in 1841, Punahou School was originally a school for the children of Congregational missionaries serving throughout the Pacific regionmarker. It was known as Oahu College from 1859 to 1934.

In 1795, the land on which Punahou School currently sits (colloquially known as Ka Punahou) was in the possession of Kamehameha I. Along with Ka Punahou, he gave a total of of land (from the slope of Round Top down to the Central Union Church, which included a -tract of Kewalo Basinmarker) to chief Kame'eiamoku as a reward for his loyalty. After Kame'eiamoku died, the land was passed down to his son, Ulumaiheihei, who lived there for twenty more years. When Ulumaheihei then had to leave to fill in the position as the governor of Maui, he gave the land to his daughter, Kuini Liliha. Ka Punahou was then given as a gift from Oahu's Governor Boki and his wife, Liliha (as suggested by Queen Ka ahumanu) to the Rev. Hiram Bingham, the first Christian missionary in Hawai i. The first class was held on July 11, 1842, and consisted of only fifteen students. The school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

During World War II, much of the Punahou campus was commandeered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: 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 their classmates who had fallen in service.

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

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 Punahou School graduate of 1976 Steve Case donated ten million dollars.This led to construction of a new middle school for grades six through eight. The Case Middle School was actually named in honor of Steve Case's parents.

The middle school was designed and built by John Hara Associates Inc. Some time into the project, the school learned about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The school then hired a design consultant, John Hara ('57) for sustainability and found out that they could earn the LEED Gold certification.

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.

Different methods were used in addressing issues of sustainability within the building. Installed sensors shut off air conditioners if windows are opened to let in the breeze; the buildings are situated 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. More efficient fluorescent lamps are used, saving 75% of the energy and lasting 13 times as long as incandescent 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. The new middle school opened on January 4, 2005, although the sixth 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.


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.In 2008, it was named the #1 U.S. high school athletics program by Sports Illustrated. Athletic facilities include the heated Waterhouse Pool, holding an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and the Atherton Olympic size 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.

Punahou students have the opportunity to 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 has a tradition of sending athletes to the Olympic Games, contributing seven gold, seven silver, and three bronze medals, competing in ten of the past eleven games, and over half of the modern games. Punahou alumni include 2008 Olympians Brandon Brooks ('99) as goalkeeper for the U.S. Water Polo team, and Lindsey Berg ('98) as setter for the U.S. Volleyball team; Brooks and Berg returned from Beijing with Silver medals.

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 for their contributions to the record amount of state championships won.

Religion and ethics

Punahou requires all students (K - 12) to attend chapel once every 6-day cycle. Eighth graders also receive a course in nondenominational Ethics.

Notable students and faculty

The most prominent alumnus of Punahou School is U.S. President Barack Obama ('79), who attended Punahou from 1971 to 1979.

In the News

Michelle Wie ('07) is a closely followed professional golfer who just won her first LPGA tournament. On television, Carrie Ann Inaba ('86) is a judge on Dancing with the Stars for its ninth season. Inaba appeared on the People Magazine 2008 Most Beautiful list. Kelly Preston ('80) is in a new movie Old Dogs with her husband John Travolta. Admiral Tom Copeman ('77) was appointed in January to reform the internment camp at Guantanamo Bay. AOL-founder Steve Case ('76) is often in the business news, and ebay-founder Pierre Omidyar ('84*) is in the news for charitable work.

In Government

Punahou has produced many leaders in the government of Hawaii, for example, Sanford Dole (1864) who was President of the brief Republic of Hawaiimarker, then Justice and Governor of the Territory. Lawrence M. Judd (1905) was also Governor of Hawaii.

The school has produced U.S. senators from Illinois and Connecticut (Obama and Hiram Bingham III (1892), who is alleged to be the model for Indiana Jones). Otis Pike ('39*), who attended Punahou, is known for the Pike Committee investigations of Richard Nixon while he was a Congressman from New York.

At least three alumni made their names in civil rights leadership, the Educator of the Disenfranchised, an Unlikely Hero, and the Uncommon American: General Samuel C. Armstrong (1859) led the rifle company that turned back Pickett's Chargemarker at the Battle of Gettysburgmarker, led U.S. Colored Troops, and founded Hampton Universitymarker to educate the freed slaves and Native Indians in the way that his father had educated the Hawaiians (and as the Hawaiians had educated him); Judge Elbert Tuttle ('14) led the federal court that desegregated the South, the "Fifth Circuit Four"; and Secretary John W. Gardner ('29*), who attended, was Lyndon Johnson's architect of the Great Society, creating welfare and PBS. Tuttle and Gardner were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In Athletics

Punahou has produced seven NFL linemen and three running backs, including 2xPro Bowler and 3xSuper Bowl winner Mark Tuinei ('78) who played 15 years for the Dallas Cowboys. The current Punahou football coach, Kale Ane ('71) is son of 2xPro Bowler and 2-time NFL 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) redefined the importance of special teams. The school also claims a major league pitcher and a first baseman in baseball.

As noted above, the school has a history of Olympic participation, especially in swimming, water polo, and volleyball, with nine alumni medalists.

In Academia

In academia, Punahou can point to endowed professors at Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, Duke, Illinois, Notre Dame, and Boston U. At Berkeley, there were recently three Professors of Law (Andrea Peterson ('70), Linda Hamilton Krieger ('72), and Ian Haney-Lopez ('82)), the anthropologist Patrick Vinton Kirch ('68), and a Dean of International Studies John Lie ('78) from Punahou. Harvard Medical School currently has at least four Punahou alumni on its faculty: classmates Clifford Lo ('69) and Dale Umetsu ('69), and the brothers, Ray ('78) and Dan Chung ('80). Reverend Father Robert Spitzer ('70) was the president of Gonzaga Universitymarker, General George Forsythe ('66*) is the new president of Westminster College marker, and Marie Mookini ('74) has been admissions director for Stanford and its business school for over two decades. Former student and plasma physicist John Killeen ('42*) founded the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. Elizabeth Bennett Johns ('55) has been a Guggenheim Fellow. Mount Rex is named for a former student and atmospheric science pioneer Dan Rex ('33*), and the mineral holdawayite is named after geologist Michael Holdaway ('54*).

The school has a connection to Mills Collegemarker 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 Famemarker star after 52 years in films. 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, 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), who was a Samoan royal, was a writer on Wild, Wild, West, Star Trek, 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. Amanda Schull ('96) had the lead role as an aspiring ballerina in Center Stage. lists almost 50 credits for Carrie Ann Inaba ('86), and almost 100 for Kelly Preston ('80).

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 ('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 Gulfmarker.

The school can claim at least eleven Army Generals, three Rear Admirals, a Marine Major General, and six Air Force Generals.

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 Cassinomarker. The destroyer USS Chung-Hoon is named after Punahou football star, Admiral Gordon Chung-Hoon ('29*), who survived the attack on the USS Arizonamarker.

In Biographies

Henry Wells Lawrence, who taught computing, was among the first pilots in the air during the Attack on Pearl Harbormarker (his pistol is fired at an attacking plane in Pearl Harbor ). In addition to Bingham and Lawrence, 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); a third 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. James Michener's story Hawaii and the film, Hawaii , 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 important early players of baseball, as initiated in the islands by Alexander Cartwright, Jr., the official inventor of the game.


Briefly attending Punahou in historical times was Sun Yat-Sen (1883*), the founder of the Republic of Chinamarker.

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

Punahou alumni 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 Associationmarker); to animal rights activist Taimie Bryant ('70), Jerry Berman ('58), chief counsel of the ACLU, and environmentalists such as Otis Pike.

Alma mater

School carnival in 2007
Oahu Wa

Oahu wa, Oahu wa

Punahou, our Punahou;

O Mau a Mau, O mau a 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 wa" written in 1902 by a student.

School Shout

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.


  1. The Top 10 Green Schools in the U.S.: 2006
  2. DONALD FITZGERALD, Pearl Harbor, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Punahou's Cereus Hedge,
  3. "Punahou Goes Home," Hubert V. Coryell, in Hawaii Chronicles III: World War Two in Hawaii, Bob Dye, U H Press, 2000.
  4. Engs’ book analyzes historical enigma - News
  5. Unlikely Heroes: Books: Jack Bass
  6. PBS - John Gardner, Uncommon American: HOME

Further reading

  • "Punahou School: a private school with a public purpose," Hawaii Business, September 1, 2003.
  • 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 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

External links

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