The art of diplomacy is key to athletics. Pamela Hamamoto ’78 learned that early and often when earning 11 varsity letters in three sports at Punahou. The future U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva understood how to lead by example, captaining both the softball and basketball teams.
Her lifelong fight for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls may have its foundations in playing on the first Punahou girls’ soccer team when the sport was added her sophomore year. It was a time when the squad initially wore the used boys uniforms and was coached by their peers from the boys’ team.
On the basketball court, Hamamoto was aggressive on both ends, sometimes a little too aggressive. As a senior, not only did she lead the buff ’n blue in points and defensive rebounds, but also fouls. As a junior, Hamamoto helped seventh-seeded Punahou to an upset run that ended in the state tournament championship game. The School fell to top-seeded Maryknoll, 48 – 39, in the inaugural state basketball tournament for girls. That same year, Hamamoto and the Punahou’s girls softball team also competed in the inaugural state tournament.
She went on to earn B.S. and M.S. degrees in civil engineering from Stanford, playing four years on the school’s club softball team, competing against Pac-10 teams offering full scholarships. “I lobbied the athletic director relentlessly to make women’s softball a varsity sport to ‘level the playing field, which they finally did,’” said Hamamoto. She also earned an MBA from UCLA.
In 2014, she was tapped by President Barack Obama ’79 to be the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva. There, she created an initiative focused on gender-based violence, healthcare for adolescent girls, women’s economic empowerment and women’s leadership called “The Future She Deserves.” She was asked to speak to a global audience at the International Olympic Committee on sports diplomacy and the role of sports in empowering women and girls.
In 2018, Hamamoto received the Samuel Chapman Armstrong Humanitarian Award from the Punahou Alumni Association. It recognizes alumni who have made outstanding contributions in the fields of public service, humanitarian or charitable efforts at a national or international level.
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