When spring arrived this year, it did so with a warm embrace. Across our School community, many beloved Punahou traditions returned to their full splendor, following several years of pandemic-related restrictions. Our alumni hosted the first in-person Reunion since 2019; Junior School students proudly showed their parents around campus for the first time since 2020; May Day, Holokū Pageant and the third-grade lū‘au were all scaled up; and the Punahou Commencement ceremony returned to the Stan Sheriff Center to accommodate more loved ones.
In Hawaiian, E Komo Mai is an invitation for someone to come in – an expression that captures the feeling of welcome that permeated our buff ’n blue community as we came together this spring. This edition of the Bulletin celebrates those E Komo Mai moments – along with the hugs, the laughter and even the tears of joy.
“It was profoundly inspiring to watch Punahou spring back to full life this year,” says Punahou President Mike Latham ’86. “At the height of the pandemic, from the summer through the early fall of 2020, our closed campus stood in silent beauty. After we returned to in-person instruction in October 2020, we started to restore the full range of activities our students enjoy.”
The path to get here has been anything but straightforward. It required the tireless work of faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni and volunteers, with one pivot after another. Although COVID-19 is still with us, along with some safety protocols, the fact that we were able to come together as one community is reason enough to rejoice.
“This year, and especially this spring, the vibrancy that has long reflected our community returned. In athletics, music, art, theater, dance, the Holokū pageant and a moving Commencement, the energy, skill, and spirit of our students was on full display,” Latham says. “Three years after I began my work as Punahou’s president, it feels wonderful to enjoy these milestones with our community once again.”
While this is undoubtedly a new chapter for the School, it is important to note that, even in the darkest days of the pandemic, Punahou’s spirit never dimmed. Over the past two years, our enterprising students, faculty, staff, alumni and parent volunteers found creative ways to keep our lively network connected, yet safe. Whether our events were held virtually or in-person, what mattered most was the human touch and the bonds that endured.
Today, as we welcome back our traditions in full, there is a renewed sense of gratitude for the small things that were once taken for granted. Each moment that we celebrate seems somehow more precious, each embrace seems to last a little longer. There is also the feeling that, whatever challenges might lie ahead, we have weathered the brunt of the storm and emerged stronger and more resilient. After what has seemed like a lifetime of standing six-feet apart, it feels good to welcome the future with open arms.
E Komo Mai to all!
– By Gina Gelber
Heralding a New Chapter: Third Grade Lū‘au
Students in the third grade blew conch shells, or pū, to announce their lū‘au celebrations. Hawaiians have been sounding the pū since ancient times for a variety of reasons, including to mark the beginning of an important ceremony. This year, the third-grade lū‘au was scaled up so that classes could celebrate collectively once again.
One of the hallmarks of the third grade at Punahou is to spend the entire academic year learning about Hawaiian history and culture – culminating with a memorable lū‘au celebration. To mark the occasion, the Class of 2031 participated in a variety of fun activities, including making haupia from fresh coconut, harvesting kalo from the School’s garden and prepping an imu pit for cooking kālua pig. This year was extra special with the entire grade being able to celebrate together again and welcoming parent volunteers back to campus.
They Got Game!
Makahiki games are one of the highlights of the festivities.
It was Saturday, May 7, when families received a mysterious email from their children’s fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Erin Nelson ’99 Koshiba. The subject line read: “Exciting Class News!”
When parents clicked on the link, they could not believe their eyes – the news was indeed exciting, practically surreal. It was something they had been longing for since the pandemic triggered a campus closure in March 2020: An invitation to visit their children at school.
“Our last visit to campus was when my daughter was in the second grade. Now she is about to go into the fifth grade,” says Phil Martin, whose daughter Gioia was a student in Mrs. Koshiba’s class. “It took a long time to get here because of pandemic conditions – but we are back and it feels really good!”
Families weren’t the only ones who found the campus visits inspiring. “Welcoming parents back to campus was the highlight of the year for me,” says Junior School Principal, Todd Chow-Hoy. “Sensing their joy, along with seeing the students’ excitement in being able to show their parents around, certainly made me smile. I’m grateful to all of our Junior School parents for their patience and understanding over the past couple of years, and to our faculty who created such magical experiences for them.”
Prior to the pandemic, Martin and his wife, Erica Lum ’98 Martin, who is a kindergarten teacher in the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood, were faithful participants in their daughter’s campus life, volunteering routinely in the classroom and attending field trips. “I remember being so engaged, particularly in the early years,” Martin says. “There was such a strong sense of community and belonging, which we really missed when the pandemic hit.” Going forward, Martin hopes to create new memories on campus. “It would be great to go on field trips and volunteer in the classroom again – anything I can do to help the School.”
Principal Chow-Hoy is a strong proponent of families coming onto campus. “What makes Punahou such a magical place are all those who make up our community – faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, grandparents – and being able to gather is a part of our DNA,” he says. “Regardless of the reason, the aloha that we are able to share with one another in person reminds us of the specialness of Kapunahou, and is something we will never take for granted.”
The theme for the May Day festivities and the Holokū Pageant was He Aloha Kēia, which refers to an act or a gesture of love. Seen here, the senior ladies danced to “Lei Puakenikeni,” composed by John K. Almeida. The song speaks of the beloved lei puakenikeni, which delights the senses with its classic beauty – and exudes aloha. It was a poignant performance, as the Holokū Pageant, held April 30 at Hemmeter Fieldhouse, opened its doors to a live audience for the first time since COVID-19 triggered a closing of the campus. The Punahou community enjoyed special moments like this throughout the spring – many of which are showcased in this edition of the Bulletin. After what seemed like an eternity of standing six feet apart, it was great to welcome everyone back. E Komo Mai to all!
Junior School students showed off their hula moves at the gym. “It was wonderful to see everyone coming back together,” says Reppun. “The kids enjoyed being with each other and it was really exciting to see them showcase applications from their ‘Ike learnings, which made the whole event more authentic.”
The Class of 2022 gathered for an inspiring Baccalaureate ceremony on Sunday, May 29. The event included vibrant student speeches and moving songs, such as “Morning Has Broken.” A student string quartet treated the audience to beautiful music, including “Por Una Cabeza,” a famous Argentine tango. Photo by Kathleen Connelly
Pomp and Circumstance: Commencement Back at the Stan Sheriff Center
Punahou’s Commencement ceremony returned to its grand setting at the Stan Sheriff Center, following a two-year hiatus.
“Each of the Commencement experiences over the last two years has been unique and special,” said Academy Principal Emily McCarren. “But it was great to be back to this experience. I am happy for the students and families of the Class of 2022 – it was a special night, and Punahou’s magic really sparkles in these big gatherings. It is awe-inspiring to be a part of it.”
The evening was filled with uplifting music, graceful hula and memorable speeches including those from Class President Tate Goodman ’22 and fellow graduate Emma Luna ’22. Principal McCarren provided a warm presentation of the Class, highlighting their illustrious personal and academic accomplishments.
“We all find these students to be ones who are resilient, don’t shy away from hard questions, or topics; we find them hilarious and appropriately irreverent; we have seen them be brave, and caring and full of joy and love for each other and their communities,” Principal McCarren said. It was her last Punahou Commencement speech before assuming her new role as head of Keystone Academy in Beijing.
Her speech was followed by President Mike Latham ’86, who delivered a farewell address to the class and imparted advice on building a sense of community and connectedness (the full speech is on page 2). Then the awarding of diplomas got underway as Deans Christine David and Jonah Ka‘akua ’97 called the names of each graduating student.
Once everyone had received their diplomas, there were hugs and plenty of cheering, and a heartfelt singing of the School song, “O‘ahu a” followed by a boisterous chant of “Strawberry Shortcake.” Chaplain Scott then delivered a stirring benediction. “Now you are alumni. You will always be children of the new spring, Kapunahou,” he said.
The evening concluded with an especially emotional moment, as the class recessional led graduates onto the audience floor to present family members with lei.
– By Gina Gelber
The More the Merrier!
“It was nice to feel a renewed sense of some normalcy after so many challenges over the past two years,” says Lynn Kimura ’81 Kunishige, who spearheaded organizational efforts for the ceremony. The strategic advantage of having Commencement back at the Stan Sheriff Center boils down to one key element: capacity.
The venue allows for more seating of guests, more parking stalls and a large space in neighboring Les Murakami Stadium for lei greeting, Kunishige explains. Altogether, there were about 5,500 people in attendance, including staff and volunteers. Each senior was allowed to have 10 guests; two floor seats, four in the lower seating area and four in the upper seating area.
It Takes a Village:
Pulling off such a large event was an impressive operational achievement. There were flowers to arrange, name tags to be sorted and lei that required gentle handling. Luckily, the Punahou community mobilized in droves. Here is a breakdown of the helping hands that made Commencement possible – thanks to all!
Alumni Week would not be complete without the Kūpuna Lū‘au, which was hosted at the President’s Pavilion. Alumni from the Classes of 1947, 1952 and 1957 enjoyed lū‘au food, joyful entertainment and memories of their time together at Punahou. Photo by Kathleen Connelly
It’s All Swell
Punahou kicked off its second consecutive Festival of Ideas as part of Alumni Week celebrations. Participants enjoyed a host of interactive experiences, including a tour of campus through the lens of ‘Ike Hawai‘i and the Outdoor Education department, as well as a mele and hula workshop. One of the highlights was an aquatic adventure onboard the School’s voyaging canoe, Kamaola. Photo by Kathleen Connelly
Alumni from Classes ending in 2 and 7 celebrated their milestone reunions and the joy of being together at Alumni Lū‘au.
To say the class of 1972’s 50th Class Reunion was a long time in the making would be an understatement. They began laying the groundwork for the event back in January 2018, only six months after their 45th Class Reunion – and a lifetime before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19.
“Our classmate Lisa Morrett ’72 Cole initiated the original brainstorming meeting,” says Mele White ’72 Pochereva, who was on the steering committee for the event. “A group of six classmates met over coffee. Lisa floated the idea of ‘Voyagers’ and it stuck.” The theme was inspired by classmate Nainoa Thompson, who had recently received the “O” in Life Award for his role in reviving Polynesian wayfinding and Hōkūle‘a’s three-year worldwide voyage.
Reunion organizers had fun working on and developing the voyagers theme, Pochereva recalls. “Our five-member steering committee became the navigators, other committee members were captains and paddlers, all of us working together toward our 2022 50th Reunion destination.”
Then the pandemic struck – and the theme of voyagers became acutely poignant as the Punahou community was suddenly navigating in uncharted waters. Despite the unprecedented challenges, organizers were optimistic that the pandemic would be behind them by the time their 2022 Reunion rolled around, so they paddled ahead.
All of their planning meetings were held virtually. “The great thing was, online meetings enabled us to involve classmates from across the country,” says Pochereva. Then came a sobering moment: Punahou had to cancel the 2021 in-person Reunion.
“It was a bit of a reality check,” she notes. “But as the pandemic dragged on and variants surged, vaccines became available, so we kept moving forward and hoped that conditions would allow for an in-person event, even if that meant some activities might have to be scaled back.”
Fortunately, the tailwinds blew in favor of the buff ’n blue community, and the Reunion came to fruition this year.
The celebrations started with the pre-reunion on Maui and continued with various optional events during Reunion Week. “I appreciated easing into our Reunion. It was great to gather with classmates in smaller groups and really spend time catching up before our big Friday night party and lū‘au day, where we had around 175 classmates and spouses,” says Pochereva.
It wasn’t until the day of the lū‘au that the significance of their 50th Reunion – and the traditions that Punahou has nurtured – really hit Pochereva.
“We had a beautiful, inspirational, emotional memorial service led by classmates in the Chapel, followed by the President’s reception with the Lathams,” she recalls. “I choked up when our class walked together past the Lily Pond and into the big lū‘au tent, led by the O‘ahu College Band and cheered on by fellow alums along the way. There was so much energy and excitement throughout the evening. What a journey it had been, with an amazing and talented team, to reach this milestone – and to be lucky enough to be part of it.”
“It was fulfilling to see the event come to life,” says Alumni Relations Director Doug Rigg ’84. “We had spent the last two years growing weary of planning and canceling. So to see everyone gather for our events during the week, culminating with our Alumni Lu¯‘au under one tent, was truly amazing.”
Pochereva says the Reunion was truly a team effort with classmates and the School coalescing to make the event come alive. “The Punahou team, anchored by Jena Tanaka ’90 Kaneshiro and Marni Bienfang ’97 Sakumoto in the Alumni Relations office, lent so much support. We are grateful for their roles.” she notes. “These are the outcomes one can expect when everyone is moving in the same direction.”
– By Gina Gelber
Raise the Roof
The School’s newest alumni from the Class of 2022 cut loose and enjoyed electrifying entertainment from Henry Kapono ’67 and other alumni musicians. In addition to playing his classic Hawaiian hits, he broke out into other genres, including rock and roll. Photo by Kathleen Connelly