Hall of Fame: Peter Andrews Powlison (1940)

Peter’s aquatic achievements started in 1927 at the tender age of five years when he won first place in a Youngest Swimmer Contest! This is documented in an Alumni Office research paper which lists over 40 major swimming events in which Peter participated. These range from the Punahou Thurston meets of 1935 through 1940 – all of which he won – to the Olympic trials of 1948, in which he was a finalist.This article appears as originally published in the Summer 1981 issue of the Punahou Bulletin.

In addition to winning the Thurston meets, Peter captained the 1940 Punahou varsity squad and was the Yale Meet 100 yard backstroke (record time) and 300 yard medley relay champion in 1939 and the 100 yard freestyle (record time) and 300 yard medley relay champion (record time) in 1940. As a result of his record freestyle, backstroke and medley performances in the Yale and Hawaiian AAU swimming meets he was picked as a member of the Hawaiian team which was sent to the 1939 National Outdoor Championships and was named to the 1939 and 1940 All-American Prep Swimming Teams.

Swimming in events ranging from 50 yards to a mile, Pete’s athletic career at the University of Washington (1941 – 1948) with time out for a four-year hitch as a marine officer in WWII (1942 – 1946) was outstanding. Among his accomplishments: captain frosh and varsity squads; All-American frosh team; All-American NCAA teams (’43, ’47, ’48); seven record performances in 50, 60, 100 and 220 yard individual and 400 yard relay freestyle events; and 1948 USA Olympic trials finalist in the 400 meter freestyle event.

Peter’s contributions to Punahou during the 32 years he served as a member of its faculty (1949 – 1981) are legendary. As a recent issue of the “Ka Punahou” said, “Powlison came to Punahou to teach history, but has instead made history.” To which we might add, “not only as an Asian scholar, but in traveling, picture taking, swimming, surfing, sailing, kayaking, hiking and hang-gliding!!”

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