Reflections of Jim Scott ’70

Members of the Punahou community, including Trustees, faculty and others, commend Scott for the way he steered the School for a quarter century.

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The Legacy: Jim Scott ’70
President’s Desk: Mahalo for the Privilege to Serve


Ethan Abbott ’72

Punahou Trustee

Jim has often said that to see the vision and chart the course of the School, he stands on the shoulders of those Punahou leaders and presidents who came before him. The time has come when we as Trustees, together with incoming President Mike Latham ’86, will stand on the shoulders of Jim to continue to see the vision and chart the course Jim has masterfully set for Punahou. As a result of his longstanding commitment to Punahou, Jim is leaving the School in a great position. Under his leadership Punahou has become a world-class institution with world-class facilities. We are all very excited about the next chapter for Punahou, but before we look ahead and embrace new leadership, it is important to reflect back and give deep thanks to Jim for leading us with such conviction, vision and love.

Punahou Trustee Ethan Abbott ’72 with Jim Scott ’70 at the Chapel, early in his tenure as president.

Kevin Conway

Former Academy Principal 2000 – 2015

Scott with former Academy Principal Kevin Conway.

In January 2019, a number of us from Punahou and Hawai‘i went to Washington, D.C., for President Obama’s ’79 first inauguration. The weather was famously cold – single digits. Jim and I had purple tickets and made our way to the 3rd Street Tunnel, where we soon got trapped with many others in what would become known as the ‘Purple Tunnel of Doom.’ After about 45 minutes of waiting in 8-degree weather, Jim suggested we retreat and make our way to an alternate venue where we could watch the inauguration on big-screen TVs and thaw out at the same time. Thousands of people ended up missing the inauguration and stayed in that tunnel for hours. Thanks to Jim, we were not among them. That was Jim in any tough situation – a good humored partner who was flexible, thoughtful, steady and wouldn’t leave you behind. I have been blessed to work for and with a number of exceptional leaders since I first started my teaching career in 1972. Without a doubt, Jim was the best of the best, and I wish him only the best in his future endeavors.


Pal Eldredge ’64

Longtime Punahou faculty member and boys baseball coach

Scott with Pal Eldredge ’64, who received the “O” in Life Award in 2013.

I was a fourth-grade teacher and coaching varsity boys baseball at Punahou when Jim Scott became president. I remember the pride I felt that a fellow Punahou grad, who was Hawaiian, was coming back to lead us. It was just thrilling. Over time, it was clear he was the perfect guy for the job. He’s a visionary, a thinker. He’ll take a situation and digest it in his mind and come up with a solution. He’s not quick to judge or make decisions. All you have to do to see the impact Jim’s had is look around the School. Our campus, especially with all the new buildings, is like a college. All of that came about because Jim related well to our Trustees and led a team that could raise the necessary money. He also made Punahou more accessible to the community. In the old days, when you applied for $5,000 in financial aid, you would get maybe $2,500. Now, you’ll get the full $5,000 of demonstrated need. That’s a huge help to people who need it. 


Leonora Espania

President’s Office Events Coordinator

At the time, (when I worked in the cafeteria and in Physical Plant), there were archaic ideas that blue-collar workers could not socialize or be invited to the same parties as staff and faculty. Jim changed those rules and extended his President’s home for the yearly President’s Christmas Party to make sure it was attended by both cafeteria and physical plant workers… With those simple actions, he restored respect for all employees.


Christian Fern ’93

Board member and former president, Punahou Alumni Association 

He has a unique ability to make you feel both important and comfortable – that he is genuinely interested in you and what you have to say. He’s able to make you feel like he cares, because he does, and he wants to know about you. If I had to describe him with one word, it would be ‘aloha.’ Mahalo, Dr. Scott for your years of service and for demonstrating aloha to all of us!  


Connie Lau ’70

Punahou Trustee
President & CEO, Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.

Jim Scott ’70 and Trustee Connie Lau ’70, as seen in their first-grade Nā ‘Ōpio photo. 

I’ve known Jim for the better part of our lives. We were classmates from kindergarten, and I joined the Board of Trustees in 1995, a year after he became president. In terms of Jim’s legacy, he’ll be remembered for his motto of Punahou as ‘a private school with a public purpose.’ He took the value that we all grew up with – to whom much is given, much is expected – and showed us what that meant. He made Punahou a lot more outward facing. He made us think beyond our campus boundaries and challenged us to think of Punahou as a force for change in the community – and he did that institutionally, not just at an individual level, which made it much more powerful. Everyone associated with Punahou, whether it’s the Board, faculty, administration, students, began to understand that we have a bigger purpose than being just a school. Yes, our purpose is to educate, but also to help make our community, Hawai‘i, and even the world, a much better place. Talk about instilling that out-sized vision throughout our Punahou ‘ohana. As a result, we saw many programs that expressed that bigger purpose during Jim’s tenure. We have the Luke Center for Public Service, the PUEO program, the expansion of the Global Online Academy, and sharing professional development training with public school teachers. Jim also came in with a strong desire to expand access to a Punahou education, and the financial aid endowment grew exponentially during his time and has become a significant part of Punahou’s admission program. Because giving back became institutionalized, everything Punahou now does has this bigger purpose and larger meaning. It’s a Herculean feat, the mark of a great leader, to be able to move an entire institution, and to leave a mark on thousands of students and everyone associated with Punahou, including parents. Jim was able to do this because of his incredible intellect to imagine the future, and his incredible heart and humanity. He’s a man who has been blessed with many talents, and he’s used them to evolve Punahou into truly a private school with a larger public purpose.


Emily McCarren

Punahou Academy Principal

Jim and I met for coffee at Columbia University when he was in New York for a board meeting of the Teachers College Klingenstein Program. I was hoping to come back to Punahou, but I had no position promised after leaving six months before. Being steeped in the theory of school leadership, I had a new vista of Punahou as being expertly led, and I had a million questions for Jim. He answered with his characteristic pensive thoughtfulness. During that coffee break, my awe for Punahou transformed to deep admiration for Jim, as I began to see how his vision for Punahou and leadership toward that vision is a case study of effective school leadership. I’m forever grateful that my begging to come back to Punahou worked. As in his refrain to students, Jim would want me to pay it forward – to use these opportunities to make another life better. Thus, in honor of all that Jim has taught me and given me, I will always ask more questions than provide opinions or answers; allow for reflection and voices of those who observe more than they speak; take good bets, as is advised by a message on his office door about which pitches to swing at, and which ones to let go; nurture leaders and aspiring leaders in the Academy and across Hawai‘i; and embrace the belief that our kids are all of our kids, and that our work serves more than the 3,750 students on campus.


Mike Moss ’72

Jim Scott ’70 with his cousin and lifelong friend, Mike Moss ’72.

Jim and I are cousins, lifelong friends and were teammates on the 1970 Punahou baseball team, where he was our ace pitcher. When he was selected as Punahou’s president, I remember feeling proud and optimistic. I knew he would excel, but what he accomplished during his tenure was even more extraordinary than what I imagined. The most visible examples are the developments of Case Middle School, Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood and Kosasa Community. Jim also guided Punahou to become even stronger academically and in the arts and athletics. The School has become more diverse, gender equal and rooted in having a positive impact on the world. For a quarter century, Jim has shared his intellect, kindness and genuine caring. He has grown the School in stature locally, nationally and globally. He definitely has earned our respect and admiration, and he serves as an inspiration to future generations. 


Bernie Noe 

National Assn. of Independent Schools Board Member
Lakeside School (Seattle), Head of School 

The thing that people at Punahou might not know is about Jim’s reputation nationally. He’s known all over the country and is highly regarded. He was very active on the NAIS board – very participatory and engaged, and he’s always been calm, thoughtful and wise. He’s the kind of guy people listen to when he offers an opinion. As a school, Punahou is widely respected, and Jim’s visionary leadership in establishing global programs became a model for other schools around the country. If I had something on my mind, I always wanted his opinion, so I spoke with him when we were thinking of having global programs.

Punahou is significant in terms of its size and programs, and because of this, it’s one of the most challenging schools to lead in the country. There are lots of moving parts. The student body is five or six times the size of most independent schools, so running a division at Punahou is like running a school elsewhere. Overall, Jim’s been a good ambassador for Punahou. He’s very aligned with the mission of the School. I was at his house once and heard him sing the Punahou song, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really rare that you get someone who so embodies the institution.’ 


Paris Priore-Kim ’76

Punahou Junior School Principal

When I began teaching at Punahou, I consistently felt the strength of Jim’s leadership in the clear framework of values that the School has always been rooted in – equity, integrity, responsibility and service. My work in the Luke Center for Public Service clearly existed because of Jim’s commitment to those values. As an Academy dean, Jim was a steady and present guide as I steered students on paths toward those values. Needless to say, I remain on my own path to instill those values in my life and work, and I’m grateful for Jim’s voice in my head. He has been the moral and spiritual leader of the School. He balances strength and gravitas with gentle sensitivity and compassion. We have benefitted from his keen intellect, as well as from his kind and caring heart.

Chaplain George Scott, Jim Scott ’70, Chaplain Lauren Buck Medeiros, Junior School Principal Paris Priore-Kim ’76, Ke‘alohi Reppun ’99 and Chaplain Josh Hayashi.

Donna Reid-Hayes ’78

Punahou kindergarten teacher

At Christmas, you invite the children into your home. You tell them about the School, your job and family. The last couple of years, you’ve said, ‘Come out to my lānai and you point to the Kosasa construction, and they all kneel and look out over the School. You turned to me last year and said, ‘They’re looking out at their future.’ For all those 25 years of Punahou students who have looked out at that bright future that Punahou has had to offer them, and embraced that kuleana that you’ve tried so hard to instill, we’re so very grateful, so appreciative for the warmth and dignity with which you carried the School.

Jim Scott ’70 with kindergartners who visited the President’s House before Christmas last year. 

Mike Walker

Head of School, San Francisco Day School
Former Punahou Junior School Principal 1998 – 2015

Jim Scott was a tremendous mentor to me. To this day, I find myself quoting him and repeating things he’s said to me. What he taught me is the importance of poise and managed disposition. I saw Jim do that for 17 years. I would sit in meetings with him and the administrative team, and there would be this peppery discussion of some complexity. Jim would just sit there and take it all in. He allowed us to go at it, and then at the end, he would settle us down with this amazing synthesis of the essential issues.

Jim doesn’t work in a normal cadence of a back-and-forth conversation. He’s comfortable with prolonged periods of silence. If someone had been watching through a window when he and I were in one of our weekly meetings, that person would wonder why these two men were sitting there in silence. I would tell myself, ‘Just be patient,’ and I could see him thinking, pondering and framing. If I gave him that extra time, he would reveal the depths of what he’s thinking. Jim embraced and celebrated ambiguity, and he also didn’t panic. He was able to maintain his poise when people around him had lost theirs, and that’s a sign of a leader. 

Jim’s legacy of fundraising at Punahou is also amazing. To raise money to build Case Middle School, Jim and I did 152 presentations together, and when he spoke to alumni, friends of the School or families with long histories, Jim was so effective and reassuring that what was important and central to the School would stay intact. My role was to get people excited about the educational possibilities, and it worked because the ethos of Punahou would remain vibrant, but the School would evolve and be forward-thinking.

Mike Walker and Jim Scott ’70 in San Francisco in 2011,
in the early stages of building the Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5.

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