Punahou Bulletin

A Magazine for the Punahou School Family

Summer 2018

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Aloha and Mahalo 2018

The Punahou ‘ohana bids farewell to 20 colleagues who retired in the 2017 – 2018 school year.

Celebrating 731 Years of Service

The Punahou ‘ohana bids farewell to 20 colleagues who retired in the 2017 – 2018 school year. These tributes are based on interviews with the honorees, their supervisors and colleagues, and were written by Rachel Breitweser ’03, Mari Miyoshi ’08, Scott Osborn ’94 and Cynthia Wessendorf.

This year’s retirees at the 2018 Aloha Ceremony, held on May 16 at Thurston Memorial Chapel. From left, front row: Wendy Brizdle ’68, Mitsy Togikawa, Roy Akahoshi, Sharan Power, Michele Higa, Walter Higa, Vickie Van Wagner and Carri Morgan. Back row: Glenn Beachy, Dita Ramler-Reppun ’70, Paula Hodges, Bob McWilliams, Linda Quisenberry ’61 Green, Diana McKibbin and Thomas Maertens. Inset: Richelle Mamiya ’75 Fujioka, Debra Peterson and Mike Kim ’76. (Not pictured: Christy Gabrio, Karen Kai, Carol Lee, Karen Murata, Paul Palmore, Francisco Visaya, Kari Wilhite and Bobbie Wong.)

 

Roy Akahoshi
Support Technician, IT

Roy was raised on Hawai‘i Island and, even at a young age, enjoyed repairing equipment and working with hardware. As a college student, he even worked on the geothermal project in Puna. He was working part-time at Punahou during his senior year at University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa, and became a full-time employee after graduating.

An electrical engineer, Roy started at Punahou in 1980 as an audiovisual technician repairing machines, like phonographs, projectors, TVs and VCRs – unfamiliar devices for most students today.

As technology changed, so did Roy. He took the initiative to learn on his own by keeping his training up-todate and becoming a certified Apple support technician. For Roy, working to resolve issues for teachers and students made it all worth it. “I also enjoyed working at events,” he says. “May Day, Carnival, recording performances in Dillingham, Lū‘au and Commencement – those are among my favorite memories.”

In addition to his regular duties, Roy and his close friend, retired wood shop faculty Stephen Wong, were the grades 6 – 8 electronics club advisors for 15 years. “We taught kids how to read schematics, solder electrical components and build electronics kits,” he says. “We started with 12 kids and by the second year we had 50 applicants.”

One of Roy’s favorite pastimes is to grab a pole and fish when he’s on Hawai‘i Island or Kaua‘i, where he frequently travels to take care of family members. He and wife Collette have two grown children, Wyatt ’02 and Joy Akahoshi ’05 Lau. He enjoys spending time with his grandson, Evan (2).

Glenn Beachy
Athletic Trainer

When he first came to Punahou, athletic training was a relatively new field and Glenn helped to build the professional community significantly. In 1985, he was a founding member of the first athletic trainers association in Hawai‘i. Since then, Punahou has become a leader in sports medicine and athletic training.

It is estimated that Glenn and the training team have treated 31,500 athletes and 42,000 injuries during Glenn’s 30-year-plus tenure at Punahou. Glenn is a “data hound” who collects information on every injury and treatment provided at the Training Room. His science-backed reports to coaches have helped decrease injuries across the board. Drawing on this “treasure of data,” Glenn has published six academic papers for sports medicine journals.

Beyond the numbers, Glenn is recognized for his compassion and knowledge. In 2016, Glenn was inducted into the Far West Athletic Trainers' Association (FWATA) Hall of Fame for exemplary work at Punahou and beyond. He was also a recipient of a Punahou Athletic Service Award in 2017.

While Glenn saw an average of 900 students each season, their enthusiasm, discipline and drive never failed to amaze him. And after over 30 years at Punahou, he can proudly say that, “It was cool to be teaching the kids of kids I had as students.”

At home, Glenn is an avid reader. Among his favorite authors are John Grisham and Agatha Christie. He enjoys woodworking and gardening in his Kahalu‘u home where he lives with wife Martha Reppun ’63 Beachy. Daughter Jane ’97 and son Evan ’94 also live in Hawai‘i. In his retirement, he is looking forward to traveling more, particularly to England and Wales.

Wendy Brizdle ’68
Bishop Learning Commons Library Assistant

Wendy has spent most of her adult life working with children. She is the mother of Ian ’98 and Tamara ’00, and a University of California – Berkeley psychology major with a specialty in child development. She transferred to Berkeley from University of California, Santa Barbara, where she witnessed the tumultuous Isla Vista riots of 1970.

“The Bank of America was burned down,” she recalls. “I was locked in my apartment, with tear gas everywhere. It was really chaotic.”

After college, Wendy returned to her native Hawai‘i and took a research assistant position at University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa. She worked next as a preschool teacher at Unity School for 14 years, then as a first-grade teacher’s assistant at Punahou before moving to Bishop Library.

At Bishop Learning Commons, her role was to process new acquisitions, handle circulation and help students in grades 2 – 8 find the perfect book. Despite the rise of e-books, laptops and iPads, she found that kids still enjoy browsing shelves and reading fiction in printed volumes.

She shares that connection to the tactile world, particularly when she gardens on a large lot deep in Pālolo Valley. For 37 years, she’s lived at this remote spot, filled with fruit trees and rainforest sounds.

Wendy retired when Summer School ended. While she’ll miss her friends and colleagues, she’s looking forward to having more time to travel. First stop is a November meditation retreat at the Siddha Yoga ashram in Mumbai, India – a great start to a new life.

Richelle Mamiya ’75 Fujioka
Grade 7 English Faculty

Richelle originally considered a career in law – even going as far as taking the Law School Admission Test – but opted instead for teaching. A conversation with former Academy Principal Win Healy prompted her to apply for a job at Punahou.

“I really struggled at first,” she recalls. “We didn’t have the MAP program at the time, but my
colleagues made me feel like I could do this and their support kept me going.” She remembers former principal Duane Yee saying to her years later, “You surprised me, I didn’t know you would turn out to be such a good teacher!”

After taking an eight-year break from teaching to raise her children, Ethan ’13 and Emily ’18, Richelle found that she had to readjust to the classroom and the newly deployed student
laptops. “That transition really challenged me,” she says. “I had to re-learn how to be a teacher and fit into this new pedagogy, which was really exciting!”

Her students have been an inspiration for Richelle. “I always feel blessed when I read a student’s writing,” she says. “It can give you amazing insight into who they are.”

She will miss the School, but she knows that the time is right for her to retire. She is amused by a particular circumstance of her retirement, “Lara Mui ’88 Cowell was one of my first students and now, in my last year at Punahou, I got to teach her daughter, Eleanor ’23 – they are the bookends to my career!”

Moving forward, Richelle plans to work on her own writing and explore an interest in journalism that started as a student at Punahou, when she worked as an editor on the Oahuan. She also looks forward to visiting her children with her husband, Larry.

Linda Quisenberry ’61 Green
Grades 6 – 8 Art Faculty

What inspired Linda Green’s teaching at Punahou? “It is the spark in the kids’ eyes when they get it.” By using their hands and imaginations to solve problems, her students became more confident and self-sufficient individuals. In this technology-driven world, Linda asserts, “Kids need art more than ever.”

Linda rekindles her spark with travel, a way to experience new settings, cultures, art, people and ideas. National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright, Gilder Lehrman and National Gallery of Arts grants have sent her around the U.S. and the world – as far as Central Asia and the Silk Road. Her adventures became learning opportunities for her students.

Linda wove the School’s initiatives and middle-school curriculum into her art program. Her classes learned about butterfly anatomy by fabricating their own sheet metal insects and about design thinking and sustainability by making clay models of energy-efficient treehouses. “I follow the ebb and flow in the lives of the kids I work with so they see the world as unified.”

Art infuses her family gatherings. Grandchildren Makayla Sorenson (13), Violet Sorenson (11) (Lissa ’86), and Lilikoi Green-Degroot (5 months) (Matt ’91) eagerly anticipate Linda’s imaginative activities.

She has loved teaching at Punahou, where creativity and the arts flourish. “The school feeds me and nurtures my soul. It is a place where I can ripen as a person and where children can become their best selves.” For 40 years, Linda has nurtured the souls of her students, encouraging their artistic uniqueness and productivity.

Michele Higa
K – 3 Lead, Cafeteria

Michele grew up in a large family in Kalihi and Makiki. She graduated from Roosevelt High School and, as a student, loved all water sports, played some tennis and enjoyed going to the beach. She studied business at Kapi‘olani Community College and worked several jobs before agreeing to help out her neighbor, Leonora Espania.

“She asked me to help out in the cafeteria part-time,” she explains. “I thought I would be helping out for one week and, somehow, it turned into 30 years!”

She moved to a full-time position in the snack bar after her daughter, Tiana ’05, enrolled at the School. Because of her dedication and organizational skills, Michele moved into the lead position in the Senior Dining Room, where the secondand third grade-students eat lunch. She always enjoyed being around the younger students.

The Senior Dining Room was also the place where Michele met the love of her life, physical plant staff and now husband, Walter. The couple married in 1999 and will be retiring together. They have three children on the mainland, Dustin, Harlan and Tiana. They are both looking forward to visiting them more in retirement. Michele cannot wait to spend more time in Texas with her granddaughter, Noa.

Although she is looking forward to retirement, Michele loves her job and knows it won’t be easy to leave. “I’m especially going to miss all of the young children and the interactions with my co-workers,” she says. “Over the years we have become like family.”

Walter Higa
Maintenance, Physical Plant

Walter traces his lineage at Punahou to father Richard Higa, who retired from his job as a painter in about 1980. Richard encouraged his son to apply for a job on campus in 1978 to do electrical and plumbing work. Walter, who graduated from Hawaiian Mission Academy in 1963, was hired and he was able to learn on the job.

He has been a reliable jack-of-all-trades, handling repairs to air-conditioning units, stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers, as well as replacing pipes, bulbs and all the many things that break down.

In the ’90s, Walter met his wife, Michele. She was working in the cafeteria and Walter got to know her when he would stop by the Senior Dining Room for coffee. The couple has been married for 28 years and will be retiring together.

Campus has truly been home to the Higas – they lived on campus because he was on call 24/7. The couple plans to move to Mililani. “I know that we are going to miss this place,” he says.

Walter is an avid Hawai‘i Senior Olympics basketball player. In 2015, his team traveled to Minnesota for the National Senior Games and won the bronze medal for their age group. He is looking forward to competing for the gold in the 2019 National Senior games in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Walter and Michele have three children, Dustin, Harlan and Tiana ’05. The couple is looking forward to traveling together and in particular, visiting their 14-month-old granddaughter, Noa, in Texas.

Paula Hodges
Academy Assistant Principal

It is hard to imagine someone as integral to the Academy as Paula simply wandering into a job at Punahou by chance. Yet that is exactly what happened when Paula was new to the Islands 40 years ago. She and her husband were searching for another Honolulu high school in the area and found themselves in the main quad. Paula decided to apply, and with that nudge from fate, became one of Punahou’s most beloved teachers and administrators.

Paula’s colleagues Sheryl Dare ’66 and Holly Greenwell ’86 both independently described her as a goddess, Sheryl likening her to Athena and Holly dubbing her the “Punahou Goddess.” Sheryl marveled at Paula’s ability to “bring people together, give them ideas and inspiration, and provide a climate of health and industry.” Holly proclaims, “She works in mysterious ways, using her intuition and her incredible intellectual acuity to initiate and smooth the way for important things to happen that always end up making others shine.”

In Paula’s time at Punahou, she has taught a range of Science and English classes, developed new courses in Science and the Humanities, been recognized nationally for her teaching and work on gender equity in science instruction, created curriculum for the former Mentoring at Punahou teacher training program, and most significantly, connected deeply with her students and colleagues. Paula continued to teach throughout her years as Assistant Principal because she loves the intellect, humor and potential of teenagers.

Paula looks forward to a retirement filled with trips to museums with her husband, artist Snowden Hodges, cooking, reading and laughing with friends and family. Her two daughters, Rachel Hodges ’81 Lau and Alison Hodges ’93 Lazarra, share her passion for teaching. She looks forward to spending more time with them, as well as her two sons, Matt and Michael, and her six grandchildren.

Mike Kim ’76
Support Technician, IT

When Mike was first hired at Punahou, technology generally meant tape recorders and old televisions. “My interview question was, ‘Can you lift this printer?’” he recalls with a laugh. By the time he retired, devices were ubiquitous across campus, and Mike played a role in keeping them all working.

“Punahou was a great place to work,” he says. He remembers the days before the construction of Case Middle School, “We would have barbecues after work and all of the teachers living on campus would stop by and have burgers with us.”

Something Mike enjoyed most about his job was being out in the Punahou community. “I got to know most people on campus,” he says.

Now that he is retired, Mike is able to take the time to do things around the house that he had to put off when he was working. He is also spending more time on the golf course, playing two to three times a week with former cafeteria worker Ron Mulligan.

Mike is also happy that he can spend more time volunteering with Friends of Hickam, an organization that works to foster stronger community relations with members and families associated with the 15th Wing Command out of Hickam Air Force Base. He started volunteering with the group many years ago but had to step back as his work responsibilities piled up.

“It’s a lot of fun, and the wingmen and their families appreciate what we do for them.” Mike and his wife, former IT colleague Patty, have three children, Andy ’06, Randy ’09 and Sandi ’11.

Carol Lee
Academy English Faculty

Carol is a master of close reading, and she teaches her students to analyze literary texts, derive inferences from sentences, and back up arguments with specific quotes. It’s a skill her kids thank her for when they get to college.

“I’m not a lighthouse lecturer,” she says. “I teach students to pay attention to literature.”

Raised by her grandmother in the tiny Haina Plantation Camp on the Hāmākua Coast of Hawai‘i, Carol slept in the same bed that her mother was born on. She was eight when she first met her mother and younger sister. After high school, she joined them on O‘ahu to attend University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in curriculum and instruction.

Carol taught sophomore English classes and American Voices, a survey of Chicano/Latino, Native American, African-American and Asian-American writers. Before coming to Punahou, she taught for 30 years in the public school system, largely at Castle High School in Kāne‘ohe.

Though approaching 75, she was teaching part-time and still loved her work, but felt she was running out of steam. Weekends and evenings were packed with grading a hefty load of writing assignments, including papers and journal entries.

Carol has four grown children, Dean, Janine, Lia and Stephanie, as well as three grandchildren who live in Vermont. As she retires, she looks forward to spending free time in her Mānoa garden and reading widely – for pleasure.  

Thomas Maertens
Security Guard

Tom grew up in Michigan and graduated from John Carroll University in 1970 with a degree in marketing; a subsequent move to Colorado fed his enthusiasm for skiing. He is the father of five children, Juli ’94, Taylor, Matt, Marjie and Rick. Back in 1985, Tom moved his entire family to Hawai‘i when they were all under 10 years of age. It was a life-changing experience, and he’s never looked back.

After three years in the Hawai‘i construction business with Armstrong Builders, and one year as an independent contractor, Tom found a position with Punahou’s Physical Plant.

With his friendly smile and outgoing personality, Tom became the person on campus that everybody knows. “After working here for nearly 30 years, I was able to make a lot of friends here,” he says. “That’s what I miss the most now that I am retired.”

Tom’s last day of work was Jan. 16, and he has been making the most of retirement. Besides spending a lot of time on the golf course, he has also been watching a lot of cooking shows with the hope of cooking better Thai food. “I always enjoyed cooking, but I can really take the time to learn now,” he says.

When asked what his favorite memory of working at Punahou is, he takes a long pause. “There are so many … it would be impossible to pick one.”

Tom lives in Hawai‘i Kai with his wife, Punahou kindergarten teacher Becca Kesler. He also has eight grandchildren, including three students in the Junior School – Natalie ’19, Braden ’21 and Asher ’23.

Diana McKibbin
Grades 6 – 8 Physical Education Faculty

Diana graduated from Kamehameha Schools and left Hawai‘i to play volleyball at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After two years in California she returned home to study at the University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa, where she helped lead the Wahine volleyball team to its first NCAA national championship.

She continued her career by playing professional volleyball in Denver and Switzerland before finishing her degree at UH and teaching physical education at Punahou.

A true competitor, Diana has continued with athletics as a basketball and volleyball coach, and as a player, competing in volleyball on the beach and at the senior world games. She also coaches her son Jameson’s ’18 club team, which will come to an end when she takes the team to a national tournament in Arizona for the Fourth of July holiday.

Diana is grateful for her time at Punahou and the friends she made on campus. “The support I've received from the Punahou ‘ohana for myself and my entire family has been amazing,” she says. “I’ve been blessed with wonderful relationships, from the secretaries, to gym personnel, the custodians, and many others throughout the campus.”

Although she will miss her colleagues at Punahou, Diana is looking forward to retirement. Never one to stand still, Diana plans to tackle a number of activities. “I’m learning to play golf and I’m planning to try out pickle ball, tennis and some stand-up paddle boarding.” She is also looking forward to seeing Jameson play volleyball for University of Southern California.

Diana and her husband, Angus, have three children, Riley ’07, Maddison ’09 and Jameson ’18.

Bob McWilliams
Academy Art Department Head and Art Faculty

For over four decades, Bob has been working with clay and teaching. It shows in his grounded, calm demeanor. For the past two years, Bob has been the Art Department Head while teaching three classes per semester. In addition to sculpting the ceramics program at Punahou into what it is today, Bob is respected in the art community as a studio artist and champion for local ceramicists.

Bob is knowledgeable and shared his enthusiasm for history, pottery styles and techniques with his students. Most importantly, he enjoyed interacting with them, and provided an environment where they felt comfortable and successful. Bob was always willing to take the time to listen. His colleagues attest, “He is open, honest, very loving and can always put you in a good mood."

Students loved Bob and spent hours of their free time in the studio every week. Alumni even returned to the studio to reconnect during the open studio “Mud Club” held several Friday evenings a semester, a tradition he started and students continue. “There is something magical and primal about working with clay that lets you really connect with yourself,” Bob shares.

Bob is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Jay, and gardening in his North Shore home. The couple is also looking forward to extended visits to Colorado to be with daughter Laura and her husband.

“Working at Punahou has been an excellent, rewarding experience,” says Bob.

Carri Morgan
2018 Faculty Fellow

“My passion has always been using the natural environment as a classroom,” says Carri. Her enthusiasm for connecting children to the outdoors began years ago as founder and director of educational programs at Kualoa Ranch. “I used to greet students by galloping up next to their school bus on my horse,” she says.

For the past 24 years, Carri has served the Punahou community as a substitute teacher, a Summer School teacher, a middle school Great Outdoors teacher, an outdoor education coordinator, a teaching assistant in grades 1 – 2, and an eighth-grade ethics teacher, before joining Luke Center for Public Service. At Luke Center, Carri supported students and teachers campuswide on projects that served the greater community.

The former director of Luke Center for Public Service, Carri spent this year as a Faculty Fellow at both Punahou and Kualoa Ranch engaging students and teachers in a real-world project: creating an onsite nature-based child development center for the preschool-aged children of the ranch’s employees. The Morgan family have been the stewards of the ranch for seven generations.

An outdoor-enthusiast, Carri enjoys traveling, hiking and horseback riding with her husband, John ’74, and her family. Another passion of Carri’s is macrophotography, which she taught to fourth graders in a class called, “Beyond the Naked Eye.”

Her children, Jason ’01, Kyle ’03 and Lindsey ’09 are Punahou graduates. Carri and John are the proud grandparents of Ella Grace, Ava and Jack, who range in age from 5 months – 3 years.

Debra Peterson
Information Specialist, Cooke Learning Commons

Deb moved her family to Hawai‘i in 1999 to take up the position of Head Librarian at Punahou’s Cooke Library. During her time at Punahou, Deb integrated technology into library services, created dialogue with faculty members as they planned their curricula and worked closely with Academy students on research assignments.

She created Cooke Library’s first webpage in 1999 and stayed on the cutting edge of learning technology. She expanded the library’s collection to include electronic readers, video equipment, online audiobooks, research databases and thousands of e-books.

“My major goal was to ensure that students could become lifelong learners by knowing how to access resources as their needs change,” Deb shares. Deb continues her support of students as a private tutor certified in Orton-Gillingham, an instructional approach for individuals who have difficulty with reading, spelling and writing.

Longtime librarian colleague Susan Clark reflects on Deb’s tenure: “Deb always went the extra mile to help everybody in the Punahou community. As head of Cooke Library, she led the evolution toward a Learning Commons by adding collaborative learning spaces and incorporating the Writing Center into the library. She also created many popular workshops and activities.”

A lifelong learner herself, Deb loves listening to audiobooks on long walks and keeps track of all the books she’s read (or listened to) in a journal. This summer, the Iowa native will start a new chapter in Houston, Texas, where she will be closer to her children, Sean ’00 and Erin ’03, and first grandchild, Danny.

Sharan Power
Grades 7 – 8 Latin Faculty

Sharan’s personal journey with Latin started in seventh grade. “I had an amazing teacher, but I never thought I would use the language on a daily basis,” she says.

She moved to Hawai‘i from Colorado with her husband, Scott ’69, in 1978. After hearing that the School was looking for a Latin teacher, she applied. “It was a stroke of incredible luck,” she says.

In the classroom, Sharan’s love of etymology has guided her teaching. “If you can understand a word’s history, it gives you greater perspective and understanding of the English language.”

Her enthusiasm for language was infectious. “It has been great fun watching kids get excited about Latin,” she says. She even had the pleasure of teaching her own children, Shelby ’05 and Stephanie ’03.

Sharan has enjoyed the work she has done with Help, Understanding & Group Support (HUGS), a local nonprofit organization that provides support to families with seriously ill children. “In the early years, we managed to get the whole school involved in an annual family dinner for HUGS,” she explains. “Over the last 20 years we have earned an annual grant for HUGS from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation for our student volunteer work at HUGS respites. We have donated more than $85,000 to HUGS through the foundation.” She plans to stay involved with the organization in her retirement.

Sharan is also looking forward to playing tennis, skiing, hiking and traveling. After all of those years in the front of the classroom, she hopes to go back to school and take some classes. She is going to miss the Punahou ‘ohana, but she knows it is time to move forward.

“Punahou has been my life these past 39 years, and I can’t think of anything else I could have loved more.”  

Dita Ramler-Reppun ’70
Head Librarian, Bishop Learning Commons

Dita is the rare type of person who can brighten a room just by entering it. Her warm, gentle manner has delighted students and colleagues for the 19 years that she has spent as the Head Librarian in the Bishop Learning Commons (BLC). Dita loves the enthusiasm and curiosity of her middle-school readers. She smiles as she describes the joy of finishing a book talk and watching the middle-schoolers leap up to grab the one that intrigued them the most.

Dita considers her colleagues to be as close to her as family, and they feel the same adoration for her. Faculty member Hiromi Hayashi describes Dita as a “loving soul with righteousness, integrity and compassion who has nurtured the library into a space the allows intellectual freedom and where tired souls can rest.”

Dita enjoyed the freedom that she had to design lessons around the curriculum and her own passions. For instance, this year BLC, Hawaiian Studies and the Chapel combined resources to arrange a program about the life of Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia. Dita, Malia Ane ’72, and Lauren Medeiros each relayed stories from different phases of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s life, with the goal of giving students a deeper sense of Punahou’s history.

In her retirement, Dita plans to be more available at home, helping her father, former director of Wo International Center Siegfried Ramler, when needed. She wants to spend more time outdoors enjoying nature here on O‘ahu and on Hawai‘i Island. She may even be able to help husband Rick ’70 on his farm, and looks forward to spending more time with her children, Annie ’99 and Noa ‘01.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Dita is training to volunteer with Roots of Empathy. Through this program, she hopes to visit a public elementary school once a week with a mission to nurture empathy and reduce bullying.

Mitsy Togikawa
Grade 4 Teaching Assistant

Mitsy’s husband, Tim ’63, attended Punahou, as did his two siblings. When her three children, Tim ’98, Trisha ’96 and Tyler ’04, started attending the School, Mitsy became curious about why everyone in the Punahou community had so much school spirit. So she became a parent volunteer, walking students to lunch and supervising students on the playground. Several years later, she started substitute teaching and eventually accepted a full-time position.

She quickly understood the love for Punahou. “Until I started volunteering, I hadn’t realized how much the School had to offer,” she admits. “It is such a wonderful place. Everyone here has made me feel welcome and a part of the School.”

Mitsy considers her colleagues to be a part of her family. “These are the people who I would run to whenever I had a problem,” she says. “They have been such an important part of my life and I’m going to miss them.”

Even though she is leaving Punahou, Mitsy is excited about her next adventure, teaching English in Japan. “I encouraged my children to spend time away from Hawai‘i after they graduated, and now it’s my turn,” she says. She retires feeling thankful for what the School has done for her. “This place has opened so many doors for me to go from one journey to the next.”

Before she heads off to the land of the rising sun, Mitsy plans to spend some quality time with her family, especially her two grandchildren, Ryze (5) and Race (3).

Vickie Van Wagner
Costume Coordinator

Vickie was raised on Long Island, New York. She learned how to sew from her two grandmothers – one was a seamstress and the other was a tailor – fell in love with theatre as a student, and earned a degree in fashion design.

After her daughter, Sunshine ’90, enrolled in kindergarten at Punahou, Vickie started volunteering with the Punahou Parent Faculty Association. In time, she was hired by the School to work in the Costume Shop.

“Punahou has this way of becoming your life, which is a wonderful thing,” she says. “It is an incredible community and I’ll never lose the friends that I made here.”

Vickie estimates that she has worked on more than 100 shows during her time at Punahou as a PFA volunteer and as an employee. Each show had its challenges, but figuring out how to navigate and solve those puzzles are part of what made the job so fulfilling for her.

In particular, she enjoyed working on “Little Mermaid” and “Peter Pan.” Both productions involved stage rigging to simulate flying. “The costume has to look good, of course, but it also has to hide the harness and still be comfortable for the actor.”

Although she will always love theatre, Vickie is looking forward to retirement. “I am really interested in finding out who I am outside of Punahou,” she says. She aims to spend more time with her family on the continental U.S., including her eight-year-old grandson, Jack.

She knows what the hardest part of retiring will be. “I’m going to miss the daily camaraderie, especially in our department,” she says. “When I started, I was the young person with new ideas and I see that happening now with others. It makes me feel comfortable that the department is in good hands.”

Francisco Visaya
Pool Attendant

Francisco grew up in the Philippines. His ex-wife worked at Punahou and he was hired as a maintenance worker in 1979. His responsibilities were wide and varied, and he was asked to be a “jack-of-all-trades,” which he did admirably for two years.

In 1981, as the School completed work on the new Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Memorial Pool, Francisco was asked to manage maintenance of the new facility, a task he took on with great vigor. For 38 years he diligently cleaned the pool, restrooms and showers every day. He would also arrive at 5:30 a.m. each morning to check the chlorine and pH levels of the water. “I wanted to make sure it was safe for the swim team before they started their morning practice,” he says.

Waterhouse Pool became a second home for Francisco, “I liked being at the pool and meeting all of the people.” His favorite story to tell is of the child who let curiosity get the best of him and wound up getting his finger stuck in one of the water jets. “The fire department had to cut away the metal around the jet and take the child to the hospital. Fortunately, the child was not harmed.”

Since retiring in November, Francisco has been traveling, working around the house, hanging out with his relatives at the beach and enjoying his daily walks, which often last for one-and-a-half hours. “I like being retired, but I also miss working at Punahou, seeing the kids and talking to the teachers.”

Francisco has been married to his wife, Luz, since 1985. They have two children, Francis and Franelynn.

Kari Wilhite
School Nurse

Kari exemplifies the word healer in the truest sense by having a keen intuition about people and their health needs. She first came to Punahou as the on-call and readmission nurse at the Health Center and transitioned to head nurse after four years.

Kari takes a holistic approach to nursing and gives a lot of TLC. Her gentle and empathetic nature have helped soothe the wide range of patients – from kindergartners to staff to tūtū visiting campus – who seek assistance from the Health Center. Caring for people on such a personal level was how she believed she could make the most difference for the Punahou community.

Four times a year for 22 years, Kari coordinated campus blood drives. “We donated 9,000 units of blood, which is really important. Blood is not something you can manufacture,” she shares. Kari also launched Punahou’s First Responder program and ensured that scores of faculty and staff volunteers were AED- and CPR-certified every year.

Recently, Kari earned a master’s degree in nursing from Hawai‘i Pacific University and plans to join a private practice as a family nurse practitioner. In her free time, you can find Kari swimming among the turtles and seals at Kaimana beach. “I love it. It’s like hiking in the ocean,” she says. Kari is the mother of two children, Gavan ’06 and Kate ’10.

Bobbie Wong
Academy Attendance Secretary

Bobbie joined the Punahou community as a first-grade teaching assistant substitute over 20 years ago. From there, she moved to a part-time and then full-time position in the Admissions office where she remained for five years before taking on her position as Academy attendance secretary.

She once described her job as “keeping track of every 15 minutes of every school day for 1,700 students.” As difficult as that sounds, Bobbie genuinely treasured her interactions with students. “I enjoyed it so much,” she says. “I truly loved my job.”

After retiring in January, she has happily been spending quality time with her parents. She has also been cooking more, something she always enjoyed but never felt that she had the time to do.

She even manages to visit campus a couple of times each month to meet with her prayer group and the Punahou Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “Roy Nakasone (security guard) always jokes that he sees me more now than when I was working,” she says with a laugh.

Her children, James ’09 and Christina ’07, both live on the continental U.S., giving Bobbie and her husband, Ken, an excuse to travel to visit them – and beyond! Her favorite destinations have been Israel and Egypt.

When asked what she misses most about working at the School, she is quick to answer. “It’s the people,” she says. “Punahou has been great to me, it was such a pleasant place to work with so much aloha.”