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One mid-quarantine evening in April, Terry and Motoko Murphy’s daughter came walking down the stairs of their family home looking crestfallen. Hana ’21 had just heard that several of her classmates weren’t sure their families would be able to afford to send them back to Punahou for senior year. Layoffs and furloughs were increasing by the day, and her classmates were worried about tuition.
Terry Murphy decided then to help the Class of 2021 finish high school together. “The idea of Hana losing classmates for economic reasons before graduation next June struck me as so sad,” he said. “I imagined conversations parents were having with their children about the possibility of not being able to return to Punahou for senior year. These kids are so close to graduating. I didn’t know exactly what I could do to help, but I had to do something.”
He decided to initiate a financial aid fund focused on aid for incoming seniors, called ’21Together. He first reached out to Punahou’s Advancement team to see what was being done by the School.
While Punahou pledged to substantially increase its financial aid allocations by 50% for the 2020-2021 school year, Murphy suspected it still might not be enough to keep the Class of 2021 intact, considering the drastic economic decline and unemployment caused by COVID-19.
As a longtime Punahou donor and member of the Parent Leadership Giving Council, he agreed to make a gift specifically to allow several Class of 2021 Punahou students to return this fall. He knew, though, that it still might not be enough.
“The economic devastation on our Island has been incredible, and I could imagine some families not being in a position to finance a private education,” Murphy said. “Perhaps, if some students leave Punahou next year, they can possibly return in the future to graduate with their Class. However, that’s not possible for the Class of ’21 kids. They will all graduate next year. If anyone left, they could never return to graduate with their Class.”
Murphy started making calls. He quickly received support from Jon Whittington and Roselle Leong ‘86 Chin – fellow Class of 2021 parents – who became part of the core of ‘21Together. Soon, other parents signed on, committing to keep the Class whole through graduation.
Along with making personal contributions, they began reaching out to other parents and spreading the word about the fund to encourage all incoming Senior Class families to keep their children at Punahou.
“I’m so grateful to Jon and Roselle and everyone else who has come together for our children’s Class,” Murphy said. “Our Class Deans Lisa Stewart and Brendan Maloney have been so supportive and encouraging. A lot of people have said, ‘thank you,’ but it’s really me who has to say that. I hope we can succeed in not losing a single kid from the Class of ’21. Our kids are old enough to understand that in times of trouble like now, if our community comes together, we can stay together. And they can stay together.”
To learn more about how to support Punahou students in need, visit punahou.edu/give or email firstname.lastname@example.org.