The Punahou Alumni Association awards were presented at Dillingham Hall before a lively audience during Alumni Week. The PAA awards honor individuals who have improved the lives of others through their contributions to Punahou, Hawai‘i and beyond.
“O” in Life Award
The “O” in Life Award, created in 1954, is the Punahou Alumni Association’s most prestigious award. It honors an individual who exemplifies the ideals of service to Punahou and the community.
Henry Kapono Ka‘aihue ’67
came full circle, from being a wide-eyed student watching musician Kui Lee perform at an assembly in 1966, to standing on the same Dillingham Hall stage as a 21-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winner accepting the 2023 “O” in Life Award from the Punahou Alumni Association.
Henry’s musical odyssey began as a member of the Hui Le‘a Nani Singers at Punahou. When childhood dreams to play football didn’t pan out, he started his professional music career as a solo artist in Waikīkī, followed by short stints playing local rock, including touring with a small band in Southeast Asia and performing for troops in Vietnam.
“I’ve been fortunate because I make people happy,” Henry told the crowd assembled at the awards ceremony. After playing in Vietnam, “I learned that I had a gift, and I should share it with everybody.”
It was his collaboration with Cecilio Rodriguez that propelled Henry’s career to new heights. Together, as Cecilio & Kapono (C&K), they became synonymous with Hawaiian music in the 1970s. Their soulful harmonies and electrifying performances captivated audiences, leading to a groundbreaking national recording contract with Columbia Records. With 13 albums, C&K brought a fresh perspective to contemporary and folk-rock genres while keeping the spirit of Hawaiian music alive.
After parting ways with Cecilio, Henry embarked on a successful solo career, releasing the critically acclaimed album “Kapono – Stand in the Light” in 1981. His immense talent earned him an impressive array of accolades, including 21 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, recognizing him as a prolific Male Vocalist, and honoring his exceptional songs and albums. Henry has filled the dance floor with crowds of all ages at recent Punahou Alumni Lū‘au and alumni meet-and-greet concerts across the continent, and fans joyfully reminisce as they sing along in unison to favorite tunes.
Beyond his musical achievements, Henry’s philanthropic endeavors have left an indelible impact on Hawai‘i’s music industry. In 2018, he founded the Henry Kapono Foundation with a mission to uplift the local music scene and promote cultural awareness. The foundation provided vital support to music professionals, especially during the challenging times of the pandemic, through initiatives like the We Are Friends Emergency Relief Fund 2.0.
Returning to Punahou to receive the prestigious “O” in Life Award was a sweet surprise, but one that he was very grateful for. “I made a lot of great friends and had a lot of great teachers at Punahou,” said Henry. “It was my destiny to be here. I think everything I’ve done has been because it was my destiny.”
From that transformative assembly in 1966, where he found inspiration in Kui Lee’s performance, to now being recognized for his lifetime achievements on the same stage, the journey has come full circle. Henry Kapono Ka‘aihue’s extraordinary talent, unwavering dedication, and commitment to giving back to his community continue to inspire generations, leaving an enduring legacy in music and philanthropy.
On stage at Dillingham for the PAA Awards ceremony, Henry quietly strummed his guitar and addressed the alumni audience before giving them a special treat, a performance of Kui Lee’s song, “Days of My Youth.” “I want to take you on a little journey to think about all the good things that have happened here and all the good things that have been part of your life, made you who you are. I don’t think you can find that anywhere else, but Punahou. This song is for us …”
The Charles S. Judd Jr. Humanitarian Award
The Charles S. Judd Jr. Humanitarian Award is given to Punahou alumni who have made outstanding contributions to society in Hawai‘i in the fields of public service, humanitarian or charitable efforts, arts, letters or sciences.
John ’96 and Julianna Rapu ’97 Leong
John ’96 and Julianna Rapu ’97 Leong, a married power couple, were recognized by PAA with the prestigious Charles S. Judd Humanitarian Award for their inspiring contributions in sustainability. With a shared commitment to public service and environmental stewardship, they have made Hawai‘i a better place.
In 2007, the Leongs co-founded Kupu, an organization dedicated to developing Hawai‘i’s future environmental stewards and community leaders. Through character-building, service learning, and environmental initiatives, Kupu has empowered more than 5,000 young adults and generated an impressive $155 million in economic impact.
Prior to Kupu, John established Pono Pacific Management LLC, driving the growth of Hawai‘i’s green jobs industry and promoting resilience. Their combined efforts have garnered much-deserved recognition, including the Ho‘okele Award from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and the Community Collaborator Award from the Hawai‘i Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations.
“Thank you, Punahou, for opening your doors to me,” said Julianna. “I’m so grateful for all that you’ve poured into me, all the ways that you encouraged me and there’s just not enough words to say how grateful I am for this opportunity. I hope that my life is just a small token of thanks for your generosity.” She emphasized that their work is a collective endeavor, reflecting the dedication and support of many people.
Emerging Innovator Award
The greatest innovators are driven not just by their imagination and the challenge of new possibilities, but also by a deep sense of empathy. The Emerging Innovator Award, new in 2023, honors the spirit of innovation as a catalyst for change and is given to alumni who have attended Punahou within the last 20 years and who are making an impact in their fields and community.
Robert Lee ’07
Robert Lee ’07, honored with PAA’s first-ever Emerging Innovator Award, has dedicated himself to identifying complex problems and discovering solutions that make the world better for us all.
Most recently, Robert has focused on clean energy, working as the principal software engineer for a company called Stow Energy in San Francisco that helps homeowners replace inefficient gas furnaces with greener, cleaner, whole-home energy systems. Robert shares Stow’s belief that making a difference in the global climate change problem begins locally, at home.
As a 2022 Fellow with the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI), Robert focused his capstone project on Hawaiian Electric’s adoption of smart electric meters, and he urged Hawai‘i residents in a Civil Beat op-ed to use the data provided by the meters to guide their personal decisions on power consumption and help the utility manage daily supply and demand.
As a college student studying physics and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, Robert developed an iPhone app to help Hawai‘i State Civil Defense crews more easily assess damage after a disaster and helped TheBus riders by creating a text messaging platform that could help them check when the next bus was due to arrive. Post college, he worked 10 years at Apple, contributing to hardware and software developments for the iPhone and Apple Watch.
His sense of empathy extends back to Punahou, where he has established an endowed fund, in honor of his late mother, Jennifer Jung Sook Lee, to benefit psychosocial education. Proceeds from the fund help Punahou students learn about mental health and wellness and to dispel old notions of stigma and shame.
Robert’s unwavering commitment to improving the world around him, finding practical solutions to complex problems, and driving sustainable change serves as an inspiration for future generations of innovators.
Malia Funk ’13
It was a personal experience with an improperly placed IUD that led Malia Funk ’13 to start The POV, a startup company connecting women and people with a uterus to better, more modern healthcare. She had been working in the industry as a strategy consultant and then in private equity, where she had an insider view into how broken, complicated and expensive the American healthcare system can be, especially for women and other marginalized communities. After being dismissed by multiple doctors about her pain, she decided she could do better for herself and others like her, and The POV was formed.
Malia partnered with a gynecologist who shared similar values and invited her to join The POV as Chief Medical Officer. Since its launch in June 2022, the company has helped more than 2,000 women access the right healthcare providers. Their website provides free educational content in online guides using easy to understand, frank speech (including the occasional swear word) about sensitive topics like “The No B-S Guide to Birth Control,” “What to Expect at Your First Gynecology Appointment” or “Abortion Pills vs. Surgical Abortion.” The content has been downloaded and used by more than 10,000 women.
Malia cites research that says eight in 10 women have reported “medical gaslighting,” similar to what she personally experienced with her IUD, where a doctor downplays symptoms as something else or insists that a patient is imagining them. To combat that, The POV also includes a healthcare directory with vetted, values-aligned providers offering virtual and in-person services.
As medicine modernizes with telehealth, digital testing and new laws governing medicine, resources like The POV and crusaders like Malia will hopefully make it easier for patients to navigate the complex healthcare system, be heard by their physicians and have confidence in their medical decisions.
Old School Award
The Old School Award was created in 1976 by the Board of Directors of the Punahou Alumni Association to recognize individuals who support Punahou in many ways and who exemplify the spirit of Punahou through outstanding service to the School.
Ken Smith is Punahou water polo. For half a century, Ken dedicated himself to the program and inspired scores of student-athletes who trained and learned from him. Ken was honored with the Old School Award – the only PAA award that can be awarded to an individual who did not attend Punahou – as a testament to his legacy at Punahou and with the alumni community.
With Ken as head coach, Punahou water polo built a dynasty of repeat state championships for both boys and girls. His leadership produced athletes who competed at the highest levels of the sport and represented their school and state with pride.
But his impact reached far beyond the pool. Through water polo, he taught his players lessons in grit, teamwork, positivity and hard work that not only won koa trophies, but also helped players care for each other. Former players have become Olympians, college coaches, and successful professionals in diverse fields.
Reflecting on his remarkable journey, Ken expressed gratitude to Dr. Vic Johnson, Punahou’s former Junior School principal, who in 1973, recognized his potential and provided an opportunity to make a lasting impact. This spirit of faith in young people became a cornerstone of Ken’s coaching philosophy, inspiring his players to believe in themselves.
The Punahou “Old School Award” honors Ken’s 50-year coaching legacy, a milestone marked by countless lives touched and transformed. His dedication and positive influence have elevated Punahou’s water polo program and inspired student-athletes to strive for excellence, both in the pool and in life.
Elva Uyeno ’48 Yoshihara
Elva Uyeno ’48 Yoshihara, a recipient of the Old School Award, embodies the true spirit of class loyalty and Punahou pride. During the award ceremony, she took the stage with a fellow 1948 classmate, unrolling a buff ’n blue banner that proudly proclaimed “’48 4-Eva,” a loving gesture that reflects Elva’s lifelong commitment to her classmates.
Elva has been part of her class reunions for decades, and she was the chair for this year’s 75th Class Reunion. She also coordinates events with her fellow Buff ’n Blue at Arcadia, where she and a tight-knit group of ’48ers live.
In 2010, Elva collaborated closely with Tūtū Marilyn Blaisdell ’48 Ane to plan their Class 80th Birthday Party at Turtle Bay Resort. Together, they crafted a memorable experience for their classmates that included a Saturday night bash filled with old school songs, cheers, hula dancing and heartfelt reunions.
Elva shared her disbelief at learning she was being honored by the Punahou Alumni Association, “In my 92 years, I never dreamed that I would receive an award from Punahou School, the best school in the whole wide world. It must be because I’m the oldest one here,” she joked.
Elva’s unwavering dedication to her class, her exemplary reunion planning, and her caring, compassionate nature exemplify the essence of Punahou’s alumni ‘ohana. Her infectious spirit and genuine love for her alma mater continue to leave a lasting imprint.
Every year, PAA recognizes seniors who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, leadership and service to both Punahou and the community. This year, the senior deans selected Emiko Uohara, Dean Ahearn and Katerina Im from the Class of 2023. Each will receive a check from PAA for $1,000.
PAA Board Members
Stephanie Chun ’97 Nomura and Mark Kumamoto ’93 were recognized for their leadership and service to the Punahou alumni community as board members of the Punahou Alumni Association. Both Steph and Mark completed their terms in 2023. Highlights of their service include lead roles in the Dinner in the Buff (’n Blue) event and PAA Annual Golf Tournament.
Class of 1999 Volunteers
This year’s Alumni Lū‘au was hosted by the Class of 1999. Host committee co-chairs Carly Wong ’99 Teruya, Kris Hui ’99, Cheryl Cambra ’99 Prather and Krislyn Hashimoto ’99 (not pictured) received Certificates of Appreciation from PAA as a mahalo for their help rallying class volunteers, organizing shifts and assisting with food prep, service and decorations at the lū‘au.
Good Times Together
Henry Kapono Ka‘aihue ’67 got the crowd on the dance floor with his melodic renditions of classics, including “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Sweet Caroline.” He has shared the gift of music and dance with Punahou for decades, including at the Sesquicentennial event in 1991, at the School’s 175th anniversary festivities in 2016 and several virtual concerts during the pandemic. In this photo, the iconic Kapono is jamming at the Alumni Lū‘au.
Photos by Kathleen Connelly
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.