President’s Desk: Mahalo for the Privilege to Serve

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By Jim Scott ’70

The theme for the past school year was “E Pili Mai – Seeing Connections, Building Bridges.” Punahou has had only three presidential leadership transitions since 1944. Embracing the theme of E Pili Mai, we have preserved continuity amid transition and change. Healthy organizations can effectively hold this creative tension. At Punahou, our sources of continuity have transcended leadership changes, and include mission, vision and values.

A son of Punahou has returned home to become our next president. Mike Latham ’86 is an accomplished and respected educator who was attracted to Punahou’s big vision and aspirations for its students. Mike inherits a vibrant culture of faculty innovation, teeming with possibilities. He was inspired by our creative educators who enjoy the resources and encouragement to accomplish their work with talented students.

Twenty-five years ago, another son of Punahou returned to his alma mater to serve as its president. For me, Punahou’s mission, vision and values have shaped the shared aspirations for our school community, becoming our navigational North Star – our Hōkū Pa‘a.

Our mission and work together has been to cultivate an enlightened, dynamic and attentive learning environment in which Punahou students are given opportunities, experiences and the encouragement to realize their potential.

Great teachers are at the heart of a great school. We have sought to attract and support a knowledgeable, dedicated and inspiring faculty through highly competitive compensation and benefits. And we have worked to foster a culture of innovation by investing in the continuous learning, professional growth and educational thought leadership of our teachers.

We now ensure financial access to a Punahou education for every admitted and continuing student. Our goal was to meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need of families applying for need-based financial aid. After accomplishing this, we continued to attract bright and talented students with the potential to contribute to our school and take full advantage of Punahou’s breadth of opportunities. The significant expansion of resources for need-based financial aid has allowed us to maintain our highly selective admission profile among Honolulu’s competitive independent schools.

We’ve improved and renewed our learning environments and campus facilities to support various programs. As we recreated Academy and Junior School spaces, we used it as an opportunity to renew our curriculum, and to deepen and personalize student learning. Our work has been student-centered, faculty-inspired and research-based, while creating environments that are flexible and collaborative, with the arts at the center, and built to the highest levels of green design. The Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5 will produce 100% of its own renewable energy, making it one of the largest net zero energy school buildings in the world.

We have become a private school with a larger public purpose first and foremost by serving an economically diverse student community. We have challenged the last 25 graduating classes to pay the gift of a Punahou education forward by ultimately improving other lives. Our faculty and administrators have developed meaningful partnerships with schools and educators across Hawai‘i, the United States and the world. The Wo International Center, the Luke Center for Public Service, along with the instructional innovation and thought leadership of Punahou teachers, have led our public purpose initiatives.

Punahou’s vision, aspirations and ideals are supported by healthy and sustainable financial management. Healthy school finances begin with strong demand for admission. It also requires robust fundraising, a significant endowment that adds value to the enterprise, and the prudent growth and stewardship of financial resources. The success of our recently completed Ku‘u Punahou fundraising Campaign has helped to realize our vision for people, place and purpose.

Amid today’s rapid pace of change, complexity and uncertainty, our aim has been to foster among our graduates habits and qualities of self-direction, curiosity, resourcefulness, persistence, critical and creative thought, an entrepreneurial mindset, collaboration, compassion, social responsibility and an empathetic global perspective. The challenge for every educator is to live up to our vision and ideals. The future of our children, our society and the planet depend on it.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the extraordinary Punahou faculty, staff and school leaders with whom I have had the privilege to work. We enjoy an awesome calling. In our work with students, we have an opportunity to shape the future every day.

I also want to thank parents and alumni, who through the years, have been magnificent in their support, volunteerism, generosity, confidence and encouragement.   

Finally, I want to thank the Punahou Board of Trustees. I am grateful for their wonderful generosity, deep personal commitment, wise encouragement and enduring support. Our Trustees have provided a supportive bridge of continuity during a healthy transition in presidential leadership. Their leadership and stewardship have been vital to Punahou’s success. E Pili Mai! 

President Jim Scott ’70

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