Cooke Foundation Leads Way to the Future

Related: Transforming Spaces to Inspire Wonder

As Punahou launches an initiative to reimagine an Academy Learning Commons, the Cooke Foundation, Limited has made a leadership pledge of $1 million to kick off fundraising for the first major building project in the Academy since the opening of the Mamiya Science Center more than two decades ago.

“The Cooke Foundation has a deep and long-term relationship with organizations that our founders helped create, and Punahou is part of our family history,” Cooke Foundation President Greg Wrenn ’86 said. “In this gift, we are reinvigorating our relationship with Punahou.”

The momentous gift comes at the centennial of the Cooke Foundation. “When we consider our decisions, we are looking back as well as looking forward,” Wrenn said. “We think about our founder, Anna Rice Cooke, about where we are as a society and the values that she held close – the importance of education and the arts, and of kindness and generosity toward others.”

Fellow Cooke Foundation Trustee Amber Strong ’95 Makaiau added that the foundation and Punahou share values that the group hopes to perpetuate. “We see the interconnected relationship between the mission of our family foundation and Punahou’s capacity to create a better future society, both here in Hawai’i and amplified globally,” she said.

The Academy Learning Commons will be a state-of-the-art facility that offers students both indoor and outdoor spaces to collaborate and access books and information resources. Students also will have a place to work on cutting-edge projects that utilize virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

“A Punahou education has to prepare students not only to acquire knowledge from different fields, but to collaborate with others and to learn how to put it into action,” President Mike Latham ’86 said. “It must give our students the space to apply what they learn to authentic real-world challenges.”

Reflecting on plans for the Learning Commons, members of the Cooke Foundation are excited to see how the design reflects progressive approaches to teaching and learning, along with inquiry-based principles. They are hopeful the space itself will be a teaching tool.

“We love the notion of a Commons where students, faculty and the community interact and think together,” Wrenn said. “It will bring President Latham’s key priorities to life and serve as an important model for the future of education.

Long Legacy of Support

Books were a passion of former Punahou Trustee and Treasurer Charles M. Cooke (c. 1866) and his wife, Anna Rice (c. 1868) Cooke. In 1905, Charles made a gift to support construction of Punahou’s first library, with additional funds for furnishings, stacks and books. Two years later, the first 10 boxes of books arrived and the School’s first librarian was hired. The first Cooke Library opened to the public on April 12, 1909. In 1916, the Cooke family established the Cooke Library Endowment Fund, then added to it in 1941, directing funds toward the upkeep of the library and librarians’ salaries. In 25 years, the library’s collection grew from 500 usable books to 23,000 volumes, and by 1935, the facility was one of the largest private school libraries in the country. Half a century later, having outgrown its first library, a new, state-of-the-art Cooke Library was dedicated on Jan. 17, 1965, with Cooke family support.

(Photo caption) Last December, Trustees from the Cooke Foundation visited Cooke Hall and gathered at the portrait of Charles M. Cooke (c. 1866) Front row: Caroline Bond Davis. Back row, from left: Amber Strong ’95 Makaiau, Greg Wrenn ’86, Elizabeth (Lissa) Dunford, Charles (Cary) Spalding Jr. ’68 and Catherine Cooke ’81.

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